Action Winning at the Ballot Box

As a member of the disability community, I have been treated to numerous get out to vote campaigns,
projects, and efforts. Recently I observed another such effort just getting started in one of the states as
a spin-off of a national campaign. It appears to me that these efforts generally include the same
elements.
 Lots of materials telling people the why, when, where and how of voting
 Candidate forums at which few if any candidates show up except for those who by the numbers
have no chance of winning
 Fancy logos and tag lines that come and go with little impact
 Committees, oh yes lots of committees
 After the election, they die and disappear
Then as the next election approaches, they begin again having done nothing in the interim to bolster
their effectiveness. They do not:
 Maintain contact
 Build new contacts
 Hold events to question elected officials
 Issue report cards on how the elected are treating our issues
They, in short, no longer exist.
The question is do we want to win and be taken seriously?
Why don’t candidates respond to our forums or questionnaires? Simply put they do not count us as an
important voting block. People with disabilities and their friends and families as a group are a larger
voting block than any other minority group. To be a voting block though we must act like one. We must
organize and make our presence felt. We must be blamed for the defeat of candidates and the victory of
others. The organizational efforts mentioned above are great but ineffective without instilling the fear of
what we can do. I do not fault the organizations who spend funds on such efforts, but to be truly
effective we must organize differently. We must put emphasis on the kinds of organization that matters
and will make us winners at the ballot box.
Once we become a true force to be reckoned with then we can expect attendance at our candidate
forums, to be equally treated in the media coverage and put people in office who respect our views.
How do we do this, you’re asking? In my opinion we:
 Organize as a long term network that works constantly.
 We create voter teams that are all about supporting and helping each other vote. We recruit
team leaders from among disability and voting advocates so they can then build local teams.

 We connect with the parties to help with registration, transportation, and candidate
information. Let the parties do their jobs for their members.
 We utilize our teams to assist in supporting each member of the team in the act of casting their
vote.
 We utilize these teams to inform voters, but never interfere with their choice of party, candidate
or the other choices that are part of the sacred responsibility of voting.
 We maintain these teams long term with regular contact and engagement efforts to grow and
expand the network.
 We connect with other groups who are holding candidate forums to get our issues included. Let
them carry the load of organizing such efforts.
 We set aside the we must be seen at the polls and get the votes however it is convenient for
each voter. Yes, I am a big proponent of accessible voting, but not at the expense of winning.
 We utilize accessible technology when and wherever possible and depend on national, state and
local advocacy organizations to enforce accessible voting requirements.
 We centralize the effort at the national level with network teams in every state and local
community.
 We self-fund by asking every team member to contribute a small amount of money to be used
to support the networks activities. One dollar a month should be sufficient. Twelve dollars a
year should not be too much to ask to protect our rights and needs.
 We should work with nonprofits who have funding to support our efforts in the ways that they
can.
This is a first blush take, but we need an ongoing effort and network like the one outlined above.
The kinds of efforts utilized so far are good, but they are not enough. In some cases, they are also a
great way to make some organizations look like they are doing something. We can collectively fix this
and become a force in American politics.
Now some will read this and be angry, so be it. Be mad at me if you wish. My opinions are that of my
own and not that of Access Ready.
Be as angry with me as you like. Then lets move past the issues raised and do something that will make
us a force in the outcome of the 2020 election and beyond.

NCIL Resolution on Access Ready Enviroments

National Council on Independent Living
A Resolution on Access Ready Environments

Whereas, the Americans With Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of
1973, as amended, and other federal/state laws require that all new or updated
buildings meet federal and state physical accessibility guidelines;
Whereas, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that government services and
places of public accommodation meet accessibility guidelines;
Whereas, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that places of employment make
reasonable accommodations to provide for the employment of people with disabilities;
Whereas, the courts including the Supreme Court of the United States have upheld all
the above requirements;
Whereas, the cost of retrofitting or upgrading both buildings and technology is often held
out as a reason not to provide accessibility;
Whereas, many potential employers give lip service to the law and the concept of
employing people with disabilities, but these intentions are undermined by hiring
managers who quietly fear the cost of making a workplace accessible;
Whereas, modern technology driven workplaces are often not readily accessible to
potential employees with disabilities;
Whereas, accessible twenty-first century information technology has proven the ability
to level the workplace playing field;
Whereas, this same technology has proven the ability to make public facing portals to
service, retail, and information delivery accessible to people with disabilities;
Whereas, inaccessible twenty first century technology creates unreasonable, punitive
and costly barriers to people with disabilities;
Whereas, information technology is clearly the lifeblood of twenty-first-century
employment and commerce;
Whereas, the cost of accessible technology, if required in advance, is marginally
different from inaccessible products; and

Whereas, legal and moral precedent exists for the advance planning and
implementation of Access Ready Environments;

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the National Council on Independent Living assembled
this twenty-third day of July 2019 herein request and require that;
Federal, state and local governments, business and places of employment and public
accommodation voluntarily implement all steps necessary to require that information
technology managers, departments, developers, and providers take actions to impose
accessibility requirements in advance of their need in the same way that structures are
required to be accessible in advance of their need; and
That the Congress of the United States and the legislative bodies of the various states
take legislative action to require that Access Ready information technology
environments be imposed under the appropriate titles of the Americans With Disabilities
Act and supporting state statutes; and
That the Congress direct the United States Access Board or other appropriate bodies to
set Access Ready information technology standards where none exist designed to
create employment and public-facing environments that are or can easily be accessible
to people with disabilities; and
That Federal, state and local government purchasing departments, along with those of
business impose Access Ready requirements on respondents to requests for proposals
and other solicitations related to the purchase of information technology; and
That government and business information technology managers, departments,
developers, and providers at all leadership levels engage with disability technology
experts to review their current employee and public-facing systems to ascertain the
necessary upgrades to create an Access Ready environment; and
That disability organizations and experts begin to examine public facing information
technologies in order to inform the government and business owners of those systems
of the issues found, and further to take appropriate actions to bring about changes that
will provide Access Ready environments; and
Be it further resolved that the United States Department of Justice is hereby requested
to review, investigate, monitor, report on and take action against employers and places
of public accommodation who have a proven track record of avoiding, refusing to
implement, and/or failing to otherwise provide for Access Ready information technology
environments by policy, unreasonable budget restrictions, and/or supporting an
atmosphere of institutional discrimination against people with disabilities; and

That individuals with disabilities, with the support of their friends, families and civil rights
organizations, begin a grassroots campaign utilizing existing complaint and legal
avenues to bring to the attention of government and business the need for immediate

action to alter the course of technology development and implementation to include
accessibility from the outset and not as a case by case afterthought.

Developing Technologies

The gathering of organizations like the American Council of the Blind brings to the forefront the great opportunities we each have. New ideas, concepts, technologies, and policies are shown, debated and grown.
Looking at those attending this years disability conventions one must think back to the past and ask
what the disabled of the 1940s or the 1840s would think.
Americans with disabilities have freedoms and abilities they could not have dreamed of.
The accessible and adaptive technologies of today and yes tomorrow are expanding our personal
freedoms with no limit beyond what we ourselves choose to accept.
The litany of names that are expanding freedom and abilities are too numerous to mention but are
being led by the AIRAs, OrCam’s and Human Wares. Just when you think things can’t get better along
comes a new concept that changes the game.
Whether we look at VOTEC who is expanding access to the election process, Discover Technologies who is making software like Share Point accessible or Inclusion Solutions who keep finding and bringing new and innovative products and services into the market that are game changers. We mention all these as examples and not as endorsements. There are so many new companies and developments that it is impossible to list them all.
I bring these forward as examples that I personally have utilized and know their freeing effect.
It is not just about learning or work. It is about play time as well. Let’s talk about Blindfold games who has broken down the digital gaming barrier so I as a person who is blind can play games that are like Space Invaders, Battleship, and many more.
The invention is not only in the realm of blindness. Take a look at the tracked wheelchair that is a true all-terrain chair that even comes with a snow plow attachment and a rifle mount for hunting.
All of these things advance accessibility and will like all other inventions lead to new advancements. It is hard to see into the future of accessibility and know what is coming next. Access Ready is working to make sure that new information technology goods and services will be universally accessible. To that end, we see places like Orange County, Florida reaching new levels of understanding and effort where access is concerned.
Nothing is perfect and much work is yet to be done, but many are seeing the great opportunities for
changing the game.

The Freeing Effect of Technology

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. The slight shift that is taking place is more toward the former than the latter as the hard work of advocacy takes effect.

 

Accessible technology is vital to the disabled at home and in the workplace. Many have found in the past that their investment in accessibility did not result in sales even when mandated by law. Now many who do not offer accessibility are finding they are at a disadvantage in the marketplace.

 

The ADA and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act require that technology be accessible. Many vendors are willing and our insistence that buyers comply with the law is changing the dynamic in many circumstances.

 

Government and big business workers with disabilities are insisting on a level technology playing field with their coworkers and employers are finding the benefits of such a motivated workforce.

 

Because employees with disabilities started demanding equal access alongside their coworkers, business and government began including accessibility in their purchasing requirements.

 

We recognize that this is not just about disability rights, but millions of dollars of investment as well as billions in purchasing dollars from business and government.

 

There is a recognition taking place on all sides of the vital requirement to get accessibility in information technology right and the negative long term effect that will be felt if we don’t. Advocacy organizations like Access Ready are having an effect, but it is the individual at the local level in their community or on the job that are the heroes in this story.

 

Yes, some of these heroes are the people with disabilities that have to deal with inaccessibility, but more and more we see the issue being pressed by co-workers, managers and yes corporate and government policy leaders.

 

Yes, some are coming to this understanding because of hardcore advocacy and legal actions. But many more just see the common decency in providing accessibility.

 

Still, more managers and policymakers are reaching an age where accessibility or the lack of it is beginning to affect them personally. Younger people stepping into these rolls see the world differently than their predecessors and simply can’t imagine not requiring accessibility.

 

Yes, there are conflicts between opposing attitudes in some cases. Such situations generally form over timing and money, but often over a lack of understanding.

 

Where timing is concerned people with disabilities need to work with the short term accommodations offered as long as a plan is in place to succeed those short term fixes with accessible solutions.

 

On the budget or money front, people with disabilities need to help bring an understanding of the higher costs of exclusion or worse yet legal actions.

 

Where a lack of understanding or an attitude challenge is blocking the path to accessibility, then people with disabilities need to support those arguing on our behalf with education, best practices and demonstrated outcomes. In other words show how and why providing accessibility is in the best interest of all involved whether employee, customer, taxpayer or the business or government entity itself. We should never forget that in the end, it is simply motivated self-interest that can turn the tide toward the freeing effect of technology.

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.

Accessible Elections Legislation Has Not Helped Much

Accessible elections have not helped much.

Many have worked hard to make the election process accessible to voters with disabilities. Many have not taken advantage of it though, if they had, HR 620 would not be such a threat to disability rights.

The Oct 2017 GAO report on the accessibility of polling places painted a dismal picture of election accessibility. If Americans with disabilities forced the issue and collectively used the ballot box we would be an unstoppable political force.

The political pendulum currently at the extreme right will swing back to a more even distribution of power in this nation. We must work to move it towards that tipping point where the rights of people with disabilities and so many others will be safe again.

Access to the entire election process is vital. This must include a voter driven transparent and accessible check in process at polling places.

Election accessibility and accessible voting technology for all.
Election accessibility and accessible voting technology for all.

VOTEC Corporation is the only election system vendor that has engaged the disability community on the development of an accessible check in kiosk for polling places. The result is a 508 compliant product that serves the widest range of people possible.

Douglas George Towne
Chair/Chief Executive Officer – Access Ready Inc.

Unity in the Disability Community Advances Accessible Election Technology

Disability advocacy groups in California are joining forces to make poll books accessible.

“We are fully on board with accessible check in at the poles”- Thomas Gregory Birkley center for Independent Living

At the Future of California elections conference Secretary of State Alex Padilla set forth his belief that “Voter Suppression is routed in white supremacy.”
Ever Lee Hairston, president, National Federation of the Blind of California 
asked “If the Secretary would give consideration to requiring that electronic 
poll books be accessible so people with disabilities don’t suffer voter 
suppression themselves?”
The generation of election officials serving between the years 2000/2008 left a legacy of accessible voting and polling places for people with disabilities. No that legacy is not complete everywhere, but it is getting better as time passes. 
This generation of election officials now has the opportunity to span the gap between the accessible polling place and voting machine with a electronic kiosk poll book that meets the 7 standards of accessibility set under the Federal 508 guidelines That can be their legacy. 
At the California Council of the Blind (CCB) conference engineer and voting technology expert Noel Runyan stated, “Where reasonable technology is available, all of the information systems
in the polling place should be accessible to voters with disabilities.” 
At its conference the CCB is taking up a resolution designed to make clear the organizations position that electronic poll books are required to be accessible to voters with disabilities under HAVA and the ADA. 
At the California Council of the Blind conference VOTEC’s accessible check in system called the Welcome Voter Kiosk received rave reviews from 98% of users during triples intended to gather further design information. 
The rank and file CCB members are speaking openly about the fact that VOTEC asked what the blind community wanted and then built their accessible Welcome Voter Kiosk to meet the requirements set by the blind and other disability groups. 
“Of course the entire election process including check in at the poles needs to be accessible any other conversation is a non starter with me.” Jeff Tom immediate past president and Chairman Government relations of the California council of the blind. 
The CCB voted unanimously in support of a resolution calling for the California Secretary of State to require that poll book check in systems be accessible to the blind and visually impaired as the law requires. 

Douglas George Towne

Chair/Chief Executive Officer – Access Ready Inc.