ROCHESTER, Minn. - The Minnesota Secretary of State recently announced new resources available to help those with disabilities have better access to voting. That includes voters who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing.
There's a new American Sign Language voter hotline now available. The Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing has been working with the Secretary of State for the past two years now trying to get this up and running by election time. Any voter who is deaf or hard of hearing can call the hotline and have direct access to any resources they may need. The director of community and civic engagement, Jessalyn Akerman-Frank, said this is something that's long overdue. "It's a dream come true for me. I've always been proactive. I had to learn from somewhere though as well and I've been learning from others that are deaf that are very good with understanding this process and they explain that to me that way," explained Akerman-Frank. "I'm feeling, wow! This is very progressive and the perfect time because access should be available to everybody in the polling process."
Akerman-Frank explained it's normal for the deaf community to be nervous to vote. "Our partner with the Secretary of State helps give our folks that confidence so they can have all the information that they need to make some informed choices," explained Akerman-Frank. "Some of those are simple things, like where can I find my polling place?" Something we can do as a community to make communicating easier on those who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing is grab a pen and notepad and have patience, especially while we're all wearing masks and that takes away all facial expressions. It's also important to note that on Election Day, some people in the deafblind community might have a support service professional with them to help explain what's on the ballot.
The hotline will be staffed for a portion of the day Monday through Friday and for the whole day on Election Day. The number is 612-293-4288.