Dallas, Luzerne County — Misericordia University Department of Communications Chairperson Melissa Sgroi, Ed.D. and Assistant Professor of Communications Dan Kimbrough, M.S. are on a mission. They are doing documentaries focusing on difficulties for physically disabled voters at Pennsylvania polling places. What they uncovered was astounding. “What I did not know was that it would be as severe as it was and pervasive as it was,” said Ms. Sgroi. Mr. Kimbrough added, “You have a choice of which building to use and this is what we found. That probably for me was the biggest shock.”
They checked out several polling places, including some in Luzerne County, during the presidential election of November 2012. Within minutes, they found one accessibility problem after another — ranging from limited or no handicapped parking to no handicapped ramps to no automatic doors. Each was a polling place that government leaders approved even though the sites didn’t comply with Americans with Disability Act regulations. “Once you get in the door everything is lovely but you have to physically get in the door and that’s the one that no one’s thinking about,” said Mr. Kimbrough. Ms. Sgroi added, “Despite the ADA, despite activism, disability is really the ‘other’. It’s the ‘other’.”
Some may believe absentee balloting is a viable option for the physically disabled but these documentary makers see things differently. “To me it screams discrimination. It screams segregation that we’re allowing you to take part in this process but you have to do it over there where we don’t see you,” said Mr. Kimbrough.
The first documentary on polling place problems that Sgroi and Kimbrough produced was screened in January. Since then, Meyers High School in Wilkes-Barre is no longer used as a place to vote. It’s one of several problems resolved that will be outlined in the pair’s next documentary. “A good number of these issues have been addressed. All of them have not been,” said Ms. Sgroi.
Misericordia University will screen the second documentary focusing on physically disabled disenfranchised voters. The documentary makers will present it Tuesday night, October 29th at 6:30 at Insalaco Hall on the campus in Dallas.