Disability Advocacy

“Nothing about us without us” is not just a slogan. It is a guidepost, a philosophy and greatest of all, a rallying battle cry for people with disabilities everywhere. It is not to be trifled with or only given lip service to. We see many outside the disability community coming to an understanding of this direct statement.

People with disabilities have endured centuries of having their fate decided for them at the policy and personal levels. Many in government and business say they get it, but how many projects, programs or efforts meant to benefit the disabled are led by a person with a disability? I’m not talking about the blind guy you roll out on cue to show how inclusive you are. We must guard against being used that way no matter how much it may cost us personally. It is true, however, that there is new respect being shown to people with disabilities and accessibility needs and it is because of the strategic competence of advocates across many fronts. The growth of the disability community in size and recognized political power is lending credence to our newfound respect.

“Nothing about us without us”, means exactly that. No matter how well-intentioned it is, any discussion about disability at the policy or personal level that does not include representation at the policy level or the person whose life is being discussed at the personal level, is insulting, degrading and without real merit. Nowhere is this being more and more accepted than in the Information Technology (IT) world. The business, government, and Nonprofit sectors are fast coming to this understanding and beginning to include people with disabilities in their planning, testing and implementation of new IT goods and services.

In the past business and government officials use people with disabilities like props to make a point, but seldom included us in the actual planning or negotiations when it came down to it. We see that changing. They see that they are stronger with us than without us.

Nothing about us without us is being taken seriously. Whether we are working professionals in the policy field or a person with a disability trying to manage our own lives, we support each other by putting a stake in the ground and saying this far and no further, we will not abandon this position. Others now get it and are beginning to respect our positions.

Nothing about us without us is becoming a contractual obligation at the professional level and all of us who work in the profession need to agree to stand united on this point. Where individuals with disabilities are concerned it is often the first and last thing learned, remembered and included at all advocacy points.

We, professional policy advocates, are no longer being locked out after we have used our organizational contacts to reveal an issue or open a door to discussing it. Persons with disabilities are insisting on being a part of every discussion that holds sway over their lives and finding respect for that position in many places.

At all levels, we are no longer allowing ourselves to be used or perceived as props or pawns. Yes, this cultural shift is happening slowly, but it is happening.

Across IT and many other areas in the business, government and nonprofit sectors nothing about people with disabilities is being considered, debated or planned without the full participation of all those concerned. Public officials and corporate officers are no longer allowing such a thing because they recognize that it would be a betrayal of this ideal, but more than that, it is a waste of the knowledge that exists in each person with a disability.

No one is born understanding disability in all its facets. People with disabilities bring a unique level of experience in general and in specific as well. If our help is necessary, then the entire process can’t go forward without us. This is being recognized more and more so to the advocates I say keep going things are changing.

Accessibility as the New Standard

This century has opened with a dawn of new technologies that offer freedom of action and participation at levels never before achieved by many people with disabilities. The reverse is also true when designs do not incorporate accessibility making the new technology a punitive barrier. It does not have to be that way. The new technologies that are being revealed almost every day are in many cases truly amazing. Accessibility is becoming the new standard. Accessible technology is vital to the disabled at home and in the workplace. Many who previously found that their investment in accessibility did not result in sales, even when mandated by law, are finding now that those mandates are opening up the market. The ADA and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act require that technology be accessible at the Federal level with many states now following suit. The vendors are willing and the insistence of advocates is resulting in buyers complying with the law. The developers that have invested millions in product accessibility are finding a growing willingness at all levels to require accessibility as the new standard. Government and big business employees with disabilities are insisting on a level technology playing field with their coworkers and the public with disabilities are looking for access to the same goods and services available to the rest of the public on an equal footing. Yes, there are those still fighting accessibility demands in court, but they are learning that accessibility will not be refused. While it is not going the way of accessibility every time we see that, more often than not, there are sympathetic ears understanding the need. Much is being accomplished through forthright negotiation while other advocates are choosing the path of litigation. We can disagree with the tactics of some, but we should look at the cumulative result of all the activity. We are in no way where we need to be and we need to keep pressing, but over time it is being accepted that accessibility is the new standard.

The Inaccessible Web is Improving

The inaccessible web is vast and growing by leaps and bounds every day, but it is getting better. Yes, there are still millions of small business and government websites built using templates, however, the providers of such templates are feeling the demand for accessibility from customers. This is because the work of many advocates across the world wide web is being felt and responded to.

Many companies and government entities having good intentions, spent millions providing accessibility on their website.  Some web developers charge a great deal and some not so much. What is important is the certification of those doing the work and the real user testing that is done before the site goes live.

Finding those that are truly qualified is not as easy as it sounds, but even that situation is improving as developers come to grips with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and online document requirements. The tools to do such work are getting better as well which is also reducing the price of such things as document remediation.

Once the site is live and being used then the real test begins. This is because many website owners do not put accessibility protocols in place to keep the site accessible. This too is changing as managers begin to change the culture where accessibility online and through information technology is concerned.

We have all learned together that with the uploading of every new non-captioned picture, graphic or non-remediated PDF the site can become less and less accessible. Putting in place such protocols is a cultural change from the way things were done to how they need to be done now. It is not unlike the change from the sharp curb to sloped curb cuts which are now a matter of course.  After expending funds to make their website accessible many organizations have realized that changing the culture and attitude toward accessibility is the next vital step in the ongoing process.                 

Scanned PDF documents which are essentially a picture of a document and unintelligible to a screen reader are where many websites begin leaving the path of accessibility. PDF’s created as such can be read by many screen readers, but those PDF’s that have not been remediated or edited to be read by a screen reader are often just as unintelligible. We see more and more businesses, governments and nonprofits putting serious effort into training and processes that create accessibility.              

Website accessibility at the local county and municipal level are becoming a matter of course, thanks to the efforts of local advocates and organizations like Access Ready who bring the issue to the attention of officials. There are thousands of local jurisdictions across America who are now working every day to improve accessibility.  There are also attorneys plowing through the countryside filing legal actions with little if any prior notice who are mostly interested in collecting their fee and moving on. Access Ready has no objection to legal action where it is necessary, but we have seen cases where once the legal fees are paid, small business, government and nonprofits have little money left to make the changes necessary.

It is truly concerning to see this kind of legal activity slowing accessibility at the local government level because much of the governing that touches each of us is found and debated on those inaccessible websites and in those PDF documents. In Access Ready’s discussions, we have found general willingness in a large portion of the market without the need to threaten or take legal action. It is why we have a policy against taking legal action. We are here to educate, advocate and help.

The same issues can be raised in the nonprofit community. Inaccessibility on nonprofit websites and in their documentation can be truly counterproductive. Many of these organizations are in the business of providing services to the very people with disabilities that may not have access. Many non-profit teams are working hard to resolve online accessibility issues. Yes, the cost is an issue for nonprofits, but we have seen industry professionals donate services to non-profits to assist with accessibility issues. Access Ready is making efforts to bring such partnerships about. It is also launching fundraising programs so that we will be able to assist local nonprofits with their accessibility needs.

Inaccessible websites and documents violate a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy, which is transparency. We as Americans have the right and prerogative to know and understand what is going on in our government. Across America, we are seeing the shift in attitudes to a culture of accessibility.

In the commercial space, many companies are recognizing the need and queuing up to provide goods and services to eighty-two million Americans with disabilities. Yes, there are some still fighting the cultural shift, but it is a wave that will lift all boats as they say. Many companies have recognized and want a part of the 240 billion dollars of disposable income annually available to people with disabilities. This is a ready market given the transportation issues that face the disability community making shopping online a natural solution.

The inaccessible web and its accompanying documentation are only serving to deepen the digital divide and many who would most benefit from access. This reality is being recognized in many places. There is still much work to be done, but working together we advocates are making a start in partnership with business, government and the nonprofit sectors. The world wide web is where governance, commerce, and social services are moving to and will be expanding throughout the foreseeable future. Government, business and the nonprofit sectors must and in many places are stepping up to meet the accessibility requirements of a growing disability community.

People with disabilities and a growing public of mature citizens with similar needs are fortunate that the industry which provides support for accessible website design and ongoing PDF document accessibility services is growing and working hard to make providing accessibility easier, less costly and more understandable.

As people with disabilities, we should all take a step back and remember that no one is born with an understanding of accessibility. Especially in a time when technological development keeps moving the goal post.

Government and Disability Rights Law

Support Access Ready, Inc.

Beyond Websites – Government Technologies and Disability Rights Law

By Eve L. Hill

Inclusivity Consulting

Public Access

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), covering all state and local governments, was enacted in 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, covering all recipients of federal funding, has been in place since 1973. These laws are unequivocal:  they require covered entities to ensure their public communications are equally effective for people with disabilities as for people without disabilities.  The Department of Justice has made clear that Title II requires all services, programs, and activities of public entities, including those provided or received via kiosks, electronic voting machines, emergency alert systems, public address and notification systems to be accessible.

Equally effective communication generally means people with disabilities can access or acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same products and services that the government’s communications offer its sighted participants with substantially equivalent ease of use.  All types of communication are covered – including information technology (IT)-based communication.  To be effective, accessible communications must be provided in a timely manner, and in such a way as to protect the privacy and independence of the individual with a disability.  These requirements apply to both communications the state or local government makes to members of the community and communications it receives from the community.

The only defenses available are when the state or local government documents in advance, and can prove, that, using all its available resources, it is too difficult or too expensive to accomplish accessible communication or it would fundamentally alter the nature of the communication or program to make it accessible.  Even if one of those defenses applies, the government entity is required to do everything it can to provide accessible communication up to the point where the burden becomes too great.

So if a state or local government agency, department, or office is providing information, services, programs, or activities to the public via communication technology, or if it is receiving information, requests, complaints, applications,  and the likefrom the public via IT, it ignores the accessibility of those communications at its own peril.

In the bygone era of just paper-and-pencil documents and in-person or telephone communications, equally effective communication generally meant providing large print, taped texts, and Braille formats for documents, and using sign language interpreters, relay services, and captioning for meetings and telephone calls.  These are known in the ADA and Section 504 as auxiliary aids and services.  As we have entered the age ofinfornation technologies, auxiliary aids and services have also advanced technologically.  A digital technology can be made accessible to blind and low vision people by ensuring the information it conveys can be provided both visually and audibly (or in tactile form) and that both visual and nonvisual means of inputting information are available.  For example, information or registration kiosks can provide a headset jack allowing audio output of all visual information and a device with touchscreen input can include a tactile keyboard or keypad, audio navigation.  Similarly, captioning for video and audio information is readily available for people with hearing disabilities.

If a government uses an information technology that is not accessible, the government will have to maintain an equivalent system for communicating with people with disabilities.  That separate accessible system, whether it is a staff person onsite at the information device, a staffed telephone line, or some other means, is likely to be expensive and may still violate the ADA’s requirement of equally effective communication.  A staff-based substitute for an information kiosk, for example, would need to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, just as the kiosk is.  The staff would need to be prepared to orally provide all the information on the kiosk, and carry out transactions for a blind person.  The staff would need to be prepared to transcribe or interpret all the speech and audio content of videos and audio programming.  And the staff would need to be prepared to accurately and privately input any information the person with a disability wanted to communicate back to the government agency.  All of this would need to be timely, accurate, and complete, while not placing additional burdens on the person with a disability and while maintaining their privacy and independence.

Accessible technology does not happen automatically.  In order to avoid the expensive, noncompliant fall-back system of access, state and local government leaders, as well as their technology designers, technology vendors, content creators, and communicators, have to incorporate accessibility as a matter of course, not as an exception, both when developing or purchasing new technology or content, and as part of a planned remediation strategy.

 

 

No More Death and Disability for Profit Through Mass Gun Violence

American Flag with blue sky and white clouds

The world has turned around many times since I first posted this article. There have been fifty plus school shootings since the halls of Parkland echoed with gunfire and the cries of children. There have been hundreds more since Columbine and still we the people have done nothing. The bravery of one young person at a Colorado school has over aged us all and his name should not be forgotten while the names of the shooters must never be remembered. In the brave spirit of Kendrick Castillo let us all be just as brave in facing the duty we all have in the shadow of Kendrick’s sacrifice. The National Rifle Association (NRA) through their abuse of free speech is still a clear and present danger to the safety and security of the United States. Now quite proper questions are being raised about not only their tactics, but their tax-exempt status. Never have so few, endangered so many for so long. It is not just about the tragic deaths of children for whom we all grieve. It is also about the millions physically and mentally disabled by gun violence.  Great companies are and should continue to sever ties with the NRA and the voices of millions of young people are not intimidated by the tactics of gun extremists. The disability rights movement should follow on to prevent millions of gun-related disabilities in the future. Let us find a compromise.  The Second Amendment is a sacred constitutional trust between the American people and the government, we the people, established. Polls indicate that a super-majority want laws that make sense and at least attempt to keep guns out of the hands of the dangerous and deranged to help prevent deaths and disabilities through mass gun violence.  We must all applaud Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, and others in the marketplace for having the courage to act where little is found among political leaders. The youth have it right when they say that the NRA is protecting the rights of gun makers and not the rights of gun owners. Cut up your membership card, no more death and disability for the sake of profit!  We the people demand changes. The NRA has bought lawmakers, we must do it for ourselves. Drop NRA memberships, and boycott businesses who support them. No more death and disability for profit through mass gun violence.

Inaccessible Dallas Texas Part Four

Texas with it's Counties Colorfully Outlined

 

In the previous part, we looked at the legal requirements on election officials where accessibility is concerned under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now let us turn to what can happen if their defense for not obeying the law is valid. The only defenses available are when the state or local government documents in advance, and can prove, that, using all its available resources, it is too difficult or too expensive to accomplish accessible communication or it would fundamentally alter the nature of the communication or program to make it accessible. Even if one of those defenses applies, the government entity is required to do everything it can to provide accessible communication up to the point where the burden becomes too great. This is a high bar. If a person with a disability is denied equally effective communication in voting, he or she can file a case in court or a complaint to a federal agency. Either way, the discriminating government entity can be required to pay damages for any extra expenses, time, or other burdens the complainant incurred, as well as damages for the harm of being obstructed in accessing the right to vote and of experiencing discrimination. The discriminating agency can also be required to make it’s voting systems accessible, adopt policies to ensure accessibility going forward, and to undertake any other steps necessary to remediate the problem. The discriminating agency can also be required to pay the complainant’s attorneys fees and costs. Finally, and most significantly, under Section 504, the agency can be required to give up its federal funding. How much Federal funding does Dallas get we ask? Are they ready to give it up? So, if a state or local government is providing voter information, voter verification, registration, ballots, or election results via the Internet or information technology, (IT) or if it is receiving information, registration applications, votes, and the like from voters or prospective voters via the Internet or IT, it ignores the accessibility of those communications at its own peril. Following their search for inaccessible poll book technology the Dallas County Elections Department, and Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole has chosen such an inaccessible system and apparently, the political leaders have willingly or unwittingly supported this act of open discrimination. Would it not make more sense to openly discuss accessible IT policy with the disability community and withdraw the decision to purchase inaccessible technology in favor of a new RFP requiring accessibility? Access Ready stands prepared to assist and all it takes is a quick email or phone call to begin the process.

About Access Ready

Access Ready Inc. is a nonprofit cross-disability education and advocacy organization promoting a policy of inclusion and accessibility across information technology through education and best practices. It shall be Policy One of Access Ready Inc. never to be a plaintiff in and/or financially support any legal action or lawsuit related to the accessibility or inaccessibility of any information technology software, hardware or service. Further Access Ready Inc. shall make the results of its technical findings, policy discussions and advocacy efforts available to the public through accessready.org, its social media stream, and other public relations efforts. The Board of Directors of Access Ready has deemed inaccessible information technology to be a clear, growing and present danger to the civic, economic and social welfare of people with disabilities. We would welcome your support.

Inaccessible Dallas County Texas

There are apparently numerous facts that have been raised with the Commissioners, the County
Judge, the Purchasing Department, and the District Attorney documenting potential bias on the
part of Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole acting as a Procurement Professional on
behalf of the County. We will leave it to the press and other discovery investigators to uncover
those facts for the public. We do know that Section 8 of the Dallas County Code of Ethics
requires Impartial Decision Making and Perception.” Section 12 states: Vendors, Procurement
Professionals, and Elected Officials shall maintain high standards of honesty, integrity, and
impartiality throughout the solicitation and contracting process, and shall conduct all contract
and solicitation-related activities in accordance with any governing laws, regulations, and this
Code of Ethics.” In addition, questions must be asked about the procurement of technology for
the election system. Not that new technology is being looked for, but the numbers do not
apparently add up. There are 486 Election Day Poll Sites that include 792 Precincts. In 2016, the
system served 1,112,375 voters and in 2018 that increased to 1,161,328 voters, an increase of
about 49,000. In June 2016, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was released that required 3,000 (three
thousand) iPads. Two years and three months later in September 2018, a new RFP requested
4500 iPads under what turned out to be a six million dollar contract for 3 years of which about
half is hardware. This is after a 49,000 or a 4.4% growth in voters, yet the new RFP looked for a
50% increase in iPads. This would mean about nine iPads per polling place when just two years
and three months earlier about 6 iPads per location was enough. This process must also be
looked at in the light of the number of voters who choose to vote early or by mail. In 2016,
514,581 ballots were cast through Early voting in person, 42,697 ballots were cast through the
mail and 211,666 voters went to the polls on election day. Dallas election administrators argued
at that time that they needed 3,000 (three thousand) iPads to serve 211,666 out of 1,112,375
voters or just over 19% of voters who went to the polls on election day. That is approximately 70
(seventy) users per iPad on election day in 2016. Spread over a 12 (twelve) hour voting day that
gives us about 5.9 voters per hour on each iPad. So are they really arguing that it takes each voter
almost 10 (ten) minutes to check in using the iPad based system? In 2018, 492,980 ballots were
cast through Early voting in person, 42,277 ballots were cast through the mail and 195,486 voters
went to the polls on election day. Dallas election administrators argued in the 2018 RFP that they
needed 4500 (four thousand five hundred) iPads to serve 195,486 out of 1,161,328 voters or just
under 17% of voters who went to the polls on election day. That is approximately 43 (forty-
three) voters per iPad on election day in 2018. Spread over a 12 (twelve) hour voting day that
gives us about 3.6 voters per hour on each iPad. So are they really arguing in this case that it now
takes each voter almost 15 (fifteen) minutes to check in using the iPad based system? Is the
failure rate of iPads that unusually high? Perhaps someone should tell Apple CEO, Tom Cook. Is
it true that Apple has stated in sales meetings that their products should not be used in mission-
critical environments? If so why would such equipment be chosen? Why are so many iPads
running software not designed to be accessible. The manufacturers of the proposed system might
be arguing that the iPad is accessible so therefore their software is. Unless designed to be
accessible to proscribed standards then accessibility will be problematic at best and more than
likely non-existent. Are the actions of Elections Administrator, Toni Pippins-Poole, based on
sound judgment, impartial decision making and perception? Is she acting in accordance with any
governing laws, regulations, and the Code of Ethics? Are her actions based on personal dislikes
and/or an overall discriminatory attitude toward people with disabilities in general? By not
including accessibility requirements she is certainly violating the ADA as governing law which
apparently puts her and her team in what may be a direct contradiction of the Code of Ethics.
Having been informed of the egregious act of discrimination by the Dallas County Elections
Department and Elections Administrator, Toni Pippins-Poole, in not requiring accessibility when
seeking new election technologies, Access Ready decided to see how far this discriminatory
attitude went across the governments of Dallas. To our dismay, we find that not only are they not
requiring accessibility in new technologies but that the online presence of Dallas County, the
Dallas Board of Elections, and the City of Dallas are overwhelmingly inaccessible as well.
Following our standard practice, we are informing the officials of those governments of these
violations along with the major disability organizations at the local, state, and national level.
Access Ready is offering to work with each of the governments to assist them in putting in place
policies designed to foster accessibility and we are waiting on their replies.
About Access Ready, Inc.
Access Ready, Inc. is a nonprofit cross-disability education and advocacy organization
promoting a policy of inclusion and accessibility across information technology through
education and best practices. It shall be Policy One of Access Ready Inc. never to be a plaintiff
in and/or financially support any legal action or lawsuit related to the accessibility or
inaccessibility of any information technology software, hardware or service. Further Access
Ready Inc. shall make the results of its technical findings, policy discussions and advocacy
efforts available to the public through accessready.org, its social media stream, and other public
relations efforts. The Board of Directors of Access Ready has deemed inaccessible information
technology to be a clear, growing and present danger to the civic, economic and social welfare of
people with disabilities. We would welcome your
support.

Access Ready Enviroments

It was just a short year ago that we first asked the question. Since we require that new and
modernized buildings be accessible. Why don’t we require that work places deploy technology
that is accessible thereby creating an access ready environment for employees with disabilities?
Since first asking the question the discussion has grown to include all places of public
accommodation. Without an access ready environment, managers often consider the cost of
accessibility before employing a person with a disability. When they do move forward, there is a
delay before employment can begin, an access ready environment could help.  Access ready is
still a new concept in the information technology world. Just think of the money, time, and
opportunities that will be saved in the long run. It could be a real commitment to information
technology by those entities who talk about employing people with disabilities.  Access Ready,
Inc. is seeking the support of disability, government, and industry leaders to putting an Access
Ready Policy into practice on a voluntary basis and then as a matter of course. Think of the
opportunities that could be created if every place of public accommodation were Access Ready.
Since asking the question for the first time the concept has grown into a national non-profit with
a Board of Directors that represents a sweep of industry leaders from advocacy to technology
development. Experts of many stripes have stepped up to lend their support, talents, and
corporate abilities to the cause. As an organization, it will soon launch access to an online
consumer technology store and a gift shop. To spread the word about the impact that accessible
and inaccessible information technologies have on people with all levels of disabilities. “Access
Ready People” the online magazine will debut later this spring. To provide educational services,
Access Ready Learning, a learning management platform will be coming along as well. Access
Ready, the organization is a nonprofit cross-disability education and advocacy organization
promoting a policy of inclusion and accessibility across information technology through
education and best practices. When formed the first policy put in place by its Board of Directors
was never to be a plaintiff in and/or financially support any legal action or lawsuit related to the
accessibility or inaccessibility of any information technology software, hardware or service.
Further Access Ready shall make the results of its technical findings, policy discussions and
advocacy efforts available to the public through accessready.org, its social media stream, and
other public relations efforts. The Board of Directors of Access Ready has deemed inaccessible
information technology to be a clear, growing, and present danger to the civic, economic, and
social welfare of people with disabilities. In the past few days, Strategy One of Access Ready,
which is meant to educate Business, government, and the nonprofit sector on the need for
accessible information technology through an Access Ready Policy began reaching out to
various government entities across the nation. These communication waves deliver the results of
our website and attached documentation surveys through an invitation to discuss the situation
and develop an Access Ready Policy. The process includes three such invitations spread over
seventy-five days with three more to follow on the legal front to negotiate a structured settlement
if the Subject Customer so chooses that path. We invite you to visit accessready.org which, like
many websites, is an ever changing work in progress. Watch as we grow and the idea of Access
Ready Environments becomes policy.

Inaccessible Dallas County Texas

Inaccessible Dallas Texas Part 2

Douglas George Towne

Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Access Ready Inc.

It is the duty of government to require accessibility so that developers will provide it in their goods and services. Even without this incentive one major company who understands the law has made an impressive investment in and advances across accessible election technologies to support Federal and State accessibility requirements. Yes, in the interest of full disclosure that the company VOTEC Corporation is one among many Founders of Access Ready Inc, but that does not change the facts in the case of inaccessible Dallas, Texas. The counties overt act of discrimination by not requiring accessibility and refusing to even look at a fully accessible product is what has brought Dallas County’s denial of disability rights to our attention. VOTEC recognizes the need and requirements that support accessibility, while inaccessible Dallas, Texas apparently does not. Access Ready does not endorse or recommend any companies product or services. We only seek that government requires accessibility across all information technology so that all companies will offer accessible innovations. This means that the argument that requiring accessibility was pointless because it does not exist in the new technologies that Dallas election officials are seeking is a straw man defense at best. Great pioneering strides have been made in the abilities to provide private and independent access to those citizens with sensory, mobility, and cognitive disabilities. We find that the technology necessary is openly available and waiting to be used to support the civil rights of people with Disabilities. Using the seven accessibility standards of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, as a baseline election technology developers have broken down previously thought to be insurmountable communication barriers. The barrier that is yet to be eliminated is the attitudes of those in power like Elections Administrator, Toni Pippins-Poole, who is apparently perpetuating these attitudes. By not requiring accessibility in their RFP she may have essentially fooled the members of the Election User Community Evaluation Group and ultimately Dallas voters into believing that accessibility in the emerging election technology market that includes poll books does not exist. If withholding information from the Election User Community Evaluation Group does not compound the perversion of the very civil rights of citizens with disabilities, then we do not know what does. This situation also raises questions about the impartiality of the procurement process. It begs the question why Elections Administrator, Toni Pippins-Poole, wouldn’t want to look at every potential technology available which makes the election process more independent, private and accessible. Access Ready is reviewing the websites of the City, County and Elections Department to see how far this discriminatory attitude goes.

About Access Ready

Access Ready Inc. is a nonprofit cross-disability education and advocacy organization promoting a policy of inclusion and accessibility across information technology through education and best practices. It shall be Policy One of Access Ready Inc. never to be a plaintiff in and/or financially support any legal action or lawsuit related to the accessibility or inaccessibility of any information technology software, hardware or service. Further Access Ready Inc. shall make the results of its technical findings, policy discussions and advocacy efforts available to the public through accessready.org, its social media stream and other public relations efforts. The Board of Directors of Access Ready has deemed inaccessible information technology to be a clear, growing, and present danger to the civic, economic, and social welfare of people with disabilities. We would welcome your support.

Inaccessible Dallas Texas

Inaccessible Dallas Texas

Part 1

Douglas George Towne

Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Access Ready Inc.

 

This year the home of the free will celebrates the twenty-ninth anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). https://www.ada.gov/. Yet from sea to shining sea we find accessibility not to be commonplace, but rather an issue from the smallest to largest businesses, governments, and nonprofits among us. This article is broken into four parts because the seriousness of the subject requires the facts of the situation across Inaccessible Dallas County. (https://www.dallascountyvotes.org/ , https://www.dallascounty.org/, https://dallascityhall.com/ )

As the world has turned and spawned the new technologies that now drive the engines of our civic, social and economic lives the ADA’s promises of inclusion are being overlooked and perhaps in some cases intentionally left out.

The potential for widespread accessibility across information Technology (IT) is being thwarted by attitudes best left to the dust bins of history. Yes, there are issues with being able to shop online, apply for employment, and even be productive on the job for many people with disabilities frustrated by inaccessible websites, software programs, and new IT products and services of all kinds. But we must address the most egregious assault on modern-day liberty in our civic lives.

Title II of the ADA covers all state and local government activities, was enacted in 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, covering all recipients of federal funding, has been in place since 1973. These laws are unequivocal: they require covered entities to ensure their public communications are equally effective for people with disabilities as for people without disabilities. The Department of Justice has made clear that Title II requires all services, programs, and activities of public entities, including those provided through the Internet or other technology, to be accessible.

Great bastions of outwardly democratic and inclusive ideals like Dallas County in the State of Texas are openly flaunting the civil rights of people with disabilities and the laws that protect them.

Although major leadership organizations like the American Council of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind and others have taken public positions requiring accessibility across information technologies including emerging systems like poll books Inaccessible Dallas County has chosen not to require goods and services to be accessible. It is not just the city, county and election websites that are inaccessible, but they have taken even greater steps to grow inaccessibility and discrimination.

In a request for proposals (RFP) (2018-049-6742.RFP.Election.electronic poll book.MI) issued by the Dallas County Elections Department, Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole apparently refused to require that new poll book systems be accessible to people with disabilities.

Incredibly we have been given to understand that when this oversight was pointed out Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole seemingly refused to even look at accessible products or revise the RFP.

Access Ready and others are continuing to review this situation, more to follow.

 

About Access Ready

Access Ready Inc. is a nonprofit cross-disability education and advocacy organization promoting a policy of inclusion and accessibility across information technology through education and best practices.

It shall be Policy One of Access Ready Inc. never to be a plaintiff in and/or financially support any legal action or lawsuit related to the accessibility or inaccessibility of any information technology software, hardware or service.

Further Access Ready Inc. shall make the results of its technical findings, policy discussions and advocacy efforts available to the public through accessready.org, its social media stream, and other public relations efforts.

The Board of Directors of Access Ready has deemed inaccessible information technology to be a clear, growing and present danger to the civic, economic and social welfare of people with disabilities.

We would welcome your support.