Sensitivity at the Polls
The rules of etiquette and good manners apply when working with every voter who enters a polling place. In addition, the following guidance may be helpful when working with people with disabilities. For additional information on interacting respectfully with Transgender, Genderqueer, and Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) People, please read the Pollworker Tips document.
- Ask before you help.
- Offer to help (opening a door, carrying packages) if it makes sense. Ask yourself, "Would I want help in a similar situation?"
- People with disabilities are the best judge of what they can or cannot do.
- Be sensitive about physical contact.
- Consider a person's wheelchair, walker or other assistive device as an extension of their body.
- Communicate at their level.
- Communication can be easier when people are at the same level. If someone is at a lower level than you, sit or stand back so they can make eye contact without having to strain their neck.
- Think before you speak.
- Always speak directly to the person with a disability.
- Treat the person with a disability as you would everyone else.
- Be aware of your environment:
- Ensure your pathways and operational space allows for easy passage and maneuverability for wheelchairs and other assistive devices.
- Use fragrance-free or scent-free products if possible.
- Respond graciously to requests.
- If someone with a disability asks for assistance, accommodate their needs to the best of your ability.
- Put the Person First.
- Remember the disability does not define the person, examples of appropriate terminology is below:
- Person with a Disability
- People with Disabilities
- Person who uses a wheelchair
For people who use Wheelchairs or other Mobility Devices:
- When speaking with someone using a wheelchair, sit at their level or stand a slight distance so eye contact can be made more easily.
- Consider a person's wheelchair or walker as an extension of their body.
- If you offer a seat to a person who has limited mobility, keep in mind that chairs with arms or with higher seats are easier for some people to use.
- Remember some people may not have a visible disability, but still have needs related to their mobility.
For people who are Blind:
- Identify yourself before you make physical contact with a person who is Blind. Tell them your name and your role if it is appropriate.
- People who are blind may need their arms for balance, so offer your arm if they need to be guided.
- It is appropriate to guide the hand of a person who is blind to a banister or the back of a chair to help direct them to a stairway or a seat.
- If the person has a guide dog, walk on the opposite side of the dog.
- If you are giving directions, give specific, non-visual information.
- If you need to leave a person who is blind, inform them you are leaving and ask if they need anything before you leave.
- Use verbal answers to questions, remember people who are Blind cannot see a head nod.
For People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing:
- Follow the person's cues to find out if they prefers sign language, gesturing, writing, or speaking.
- When using a sign language interpreter, look directly at the person who is Deaf and maintain eye contact to be polite.
- Before speaking to a person who is deaf or has loss of hearing, make sure you get their attention.
- If after repeating sentences multiple times the person still does not understand, try rephrasing the sentences.
- Speak in a normal volume, if the person uses a hearing aid, it will be calibrated to normal voice levels.
People with Speech Disabilities:
- Give the person your full attention.
- If you are not sure whether you have understood you can repeat for verification.
- If, after trying, you still cannot understand the person, ask him to write it down or to suggest another way of facilitating communication.
- Be patient; take as much time as necessary to communicate effectively.