Voter suppression laws, purged voter files and other government obstacles can make it very difficult for teens with disabilities to vote.* Teaching teens with disabilities to vote is a major skill of transitioning from student to adult. Teaching teens to vote is also an empowering activity.
Teaching Teens to Vote
Teens with special needs must receive education in transition skills according to federal
mandates. Among those mandated skills are:
“Youth (should be ) able to explore various roles and identities, promoting self-determination.”**
Voting for your state and federal representatives is the ultimate American act of self-
determination and can prove to be life-changing for citizens, especially citizens with disabilities.
Using the “Access for Everyone” Packet
This free packet can begin discussions on voting, citizenship, and access. It is best done in a whole class or small group setting so that open discussions can ensue. You might:
Bring in your own sample ballot for students to study. Discuss the kinds of issues included on the ballot. Explain that mid-terms usually deal with local issues versus presidential elections which also address federal issues. And, while the primaries don’t begin for another 3 months in the first states, it is good to be sure that students who are eligible to vote are registered and that there are no glitches in the process EARLY rather than get stuck at the polls.
Read the first page of this packet. Are students aware of any voting issues in their community? What plans have voter-aged students made to go to the polls? Are there community resources to help them?
Pull up RevUp! on a classroom computer. Study the kinds of services they offer. Check out the hotlines and resources available. Discuss which ones might be helpful to students in your classroom.
Create a plan. Allow students to use the second page of the packet to create a voter plan for themselves. Work in teams to brainstorm solutions to any obstacles they might face.
For More Information
“Access to Everyone” is a free lesson supplementing the Daily Living Skills series of books. If this lesson works for you, you may want to expand the unit by teaching Voting, Understanding Government and Fact or Fake News! from this series. Voting provides students with information on how to and why they should vote along with quizzes to determine their political philosophy and probable party affiliation. Understanding Government allows students to understand the 3 branches of government and their roles in student lives. Fact or Fake News! teaches students ten ways to discern factual information from fake news. Like all books in the series, they are written at an elementary reading level with light, airy pages and bullet-point information but nevertheless honor teen sensibilities while meeting federal mandates for transition skills and Indicator 13 skills alike. For more information, or to purchase books, go to our shop or our TPT shop.
Sources: * https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/02/01/how-voters-with-disabilities-
**Transition to Adult Living: An Information and Resource Guide, CalSTATE, CDE 2008.