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Disabled voters in Allegany County are now assured of access to polling sites as a result of a new agreement announced today between the county Board of Elections and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

The effort to provide more accessibility to polling places stemmed from several complaints about disabled voters facing barriers at several Allegany sites, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

The Board of Elections is now required to designate an on-site accessibility coordinator at each polling site across the county, train all poll workers in state and federal accessibility requirements, and work to eliminate architectural barriers inconsistent with federal accessibility guidelines.

“Guaranteeing meaningful access to polling places requires that boards of elections make physical accessibility a priority,” Schneiderman said. “The Allegany County Board of Elections has agreed to make polling place accessibility a reality by working with our office and local officials well before the next elections are held. We look forward to working with other boards of elections around the state to undertake similar proactive measures to ensure that all voters can participate in elections conducted in the year ahead.”

Schneiderman’s office said census data indicates approximately 12 percent of persons over 18 in Allegany County are disabled – higher than the statewide average.

The attorney general’s review revealed that some sites lacked an accessible entrance; that ramps leading to entry ways were sometimes too steep for use by wheelchair users; and some lacked side rails to aid users.

Schneiderman’s office said the Board of Elections then hired an expert to survey all county polling places for compliance with accessibility guidelines, and worked with local officials to ensure compliance with state and federal guidelines. The board also has agreed to make election inspectors at each polling place responsible for handling accessibility complaints.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com