“This issue is a longstanding and concerning one — many autistic people and those with other developmental disabilities are denied fundamental rights, like voting, due to guardianship,” Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, told CalWatchdog.com. “We’re pleased to see this issue highlighted and will be urging the Justice Department to act on the complaint.”
According to a 2012 study published in the Lancet, adults with disabilities are more likely to be physically and sexually abused than adults without disabilities. “People with mental illness are about four times more likely — and people with intellectual impairments are about one-and-half times more likely — to get abused than non-disabled adults,” the study found. That’s reinforced by the 2012 National Survey on Abuse of People with Disabilities, which found more than 70 percent of people with disabilities claiming to be victims of abuse.
But, without voting rights, people with disabilities aren’t a political force that can demand action on problems affecting 15 percent of the population. That was no different in this case. Disability advocates asked state and local officials to address the voting rights problem, but were ignored.
“We reached out to the ‘powers that be’ both locally and at the state level to correct this problem,” said [Thomas] Coleman, the attorney for the project. “Nothing has changed. So we are ‘making a federal case out of it.’”