The Uniform Voting Experience

 

The extension of the uniform voting experience must now go beyond the simple act of voting as technology takes hold throughout the election process. The voter check-in process at the polls is one where technology has been shown to be of great assistance. 

The sheer volume of voters and legal notice requirements are putting tremendous pressure on the recruiting, training and retention of poll workers across the nation. The implementation of computer-driven accessible check-in solutions offers a resolution to these issues. 

It can do all these things while relieving the poll worker of many tedious tasks.

·         It frees the poll worker from sworn responsibility for perfect delivery of legal notice statements.

·         It frees the poll worker from debating with individual voters the voting path they must take.

·         It improves the poll workers ability to communicate with the voter from a service aspect.

It does all this while supporting election administrators:

·         By reducing poll worker training and turnover.

·         By no longer making legal requirements and notices subject to being filtered through poll workers with their own views and prejudices.

·         By engaging every voter in the entire process from check in to voting while meeting the individual needs of each voter regardless of their language or disability access needs.

·         By creating a uniform check-in which is part of the voting experience that meets the requirements of the law and smoothes out the process into a faster and more enjoyable experience.

A computer-driven accessible check-in solution can do all these things and more provided all voters are taken into account during the requirements and purchase process. Provided the spirit of the uniform voting experience in the Help America Vote Act is followed. Provided that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act is obeyed by requiring that all poll place check-in technology is accessible to people with disabilities.

 

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.

Accessibility Investments

 

Many disability-related laws and regulations have required accessibility in the technology arena. Many companies have invested millions to comply only to find in the past that business, government, and non-profit purchasing agents did not care. Investors of accessibility also are finding now that disability advocates are growing in their praise of such corporate support of accessibility requirements.

Highlighting those companies that are investing in accessibility and support for their marketing efforts, by national disability organizations is becoming more accepted.  We will not say that there is a wave of this activity, but there are examples that have made sense like NFB’s relationship with AIRA. Those that are beginning to develop such relationships are being careful to look at the usability and effectiveness of the product before taking the leap.

Many companies have taken the position privately in the past that they will not invest in accessibility until the demand is harming their marketability. That position is fast becoming untenable.

We all know that government and business do not have to buy accessible technology if it does not exist, so what happens if companies stop investing in the development of accessibility? All the laws will not matter if the technology does not exist. There is a slow shift to demanding such accessibility on the part of business, government and nonprofit buyers which is bringing about more accessibility. This means the accessible products and services will exist and their lack will no longer be an excuse.

The concept that accessible information technology (IT) does not end with accessible websites and the documents on those sites is becoming more accepted. It must extend into every aspect of IT from devices to applications and services. Accessibility requirements are turning up in requests for proposals across all of IT and many companies who never considered such in their products and services are now having to do so.

Discussions are taking place with the financiers of new technologies that are encouraging them to require accessibility in the concepts they fund. It opens up the market and yes, mitigates the risk of legal actions. They are beginning to listen.

The cooperation of accessibility developers and disability advocates can only result in a wider range of solutions available to people with disabilities across community life. Supporting the purchase and implementation of new levels of accessible technology will assist business, government, and nonprofits in complying with access requirements and open more opportunities to people with disabilities.

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.

Access Ready Marketplace

Access Ready has a number of stakeholders and therefore a like amount of markets to build relationships with. In no particular order except for the first and foremost consumers with disabilities of all types. Then the parents of children with disabilities and the family/friends/supporters within the disability community. The professionals like doctors, lawyers, teachers, and we must not forget policymakers and government bureaucrats. There are so many people involved from so many aspects that an exhaustive list is not possible. Let us take just a moment to recognize the caregivers in the lives of people with disabilities. Many of us do not like to say we have caregivers, but we do. Yes, many are under the cover of friends and family, but they are caregivers none the less. Whether they are a friend down the block who takes the time to help us play when we are just children or the elderly lady who reads to us in school, we must pay our respects to them all.

Access Ready must also appeal to the professionals in the field of information technology. The developers, makers, buyers, managers, and funders that decide what the future of technology is going to look like in every setting. We must reach the designers and developers of new technologies in order to shape the inclusivity of new or updating goods and services. The makers and marketers of information technologies are of prime concern because they must learn the needs of people with disabilities and that it’s not just about compliance with the law, but usability as well. We must help them understand how and why to market accessibility. The buyers are important to us because it is the purchasing officers of the world who often decide what is required and how those requirements are presented. The managers of information technologies hold a crucial place in the market because they hold the keys to what is and is not possible in the view of the buyers and funders. It is the funders who are otherwise known as policymakers and enforcers who set the stage for the inclusion or exclusion of people with disabilities. Policy makers are often our elected officials, to begin with, and policy enforcers are the bureaucrats that carry out the intent of policymakers.

All these and more make up the marketplace for Access Ready. We must not forget the advocates, nonprofits, sponsors and technology resources that support us as well. While the Access Ready Execution Team includes several with marketing backgrounds we seek more expertise to work with and advise us. If your interested in supporting our marketing efforts please contact us through info@accessready.org to get started. In our search for marketing talent, we are fortunate to have been offered the services of a leader in the marketing community with a wide range of experience. Her background including work in strategy and positioning, business development, relationship marketing, brand architecture and corporate identity among other skills promises to advance the cause of accessible information technology. Access Ready Inc is honored to welcome Debra Roberts-Bellanti to its Board of Directors as Chair of Market Relations.

As Access Ready reaches out into its various markets we hope to bring clarity and understanding to discussions related to accessible information technology. As an educational advocacy nonprofit our purpose is to bring about understanding across all these markets of the crucial place that accessible information technologies play in the future, civic, economic, and social lives of people with disabilities.

Its about you, the consumer

Icon of Check Mark

At the end of the day, the work of Access Ready is all about you, the consumer. The effects of inaccessible information technology are personal and meet the person at the basic levels of life: consent, engagement, and freedom of action. The interference of inaccessible information technology in the civic, economic and community lives of individual consumers is immoral, unethical and illegal in the commonsense intent of civil rights law. It is not about the law however, it is about the lives of people with disabilities. It is about the lives of people regardless of the level of their sophistication or abilities. It is about you, the consumer.

With information technology serving as the lifeblood of civic, economic and community life today, its accessibility is paramount, and the rising level of inaccessibility is a clear and growing danger to the civic, economic and community lives of people with disabilities. Those are high minded words that mean it is about you, the consumer. Access Ready is working to connect with consumers across the global community. Because inaccessible information technology has such a personal impact on the individual consumer it is necessary for us to bring to bear all the consumer opinion available. To that end, we are seeking individuals who represent the widest range of the consumer community. Advocates who represent the needs of the many and the few.

The needs of the visually impaired, blind, deaf and others with disabilities are at the core of Access Ready’s culture, mission, vision, values, and purpose. Access Ready has sought out a leader who is respected and trusted for her calm approach to issues. A teacher of children with a wide array of disabilities who sees firsthand how inaccessibility can impact the future of her students and the adult consumers she works with professionally. A commonsense leader who sees the opportunities inherent inaccessible information technology and how inaccessibility is punitive to the future of the people she works with and represents. Access Ready Inc. is honored to welcome the current President of the Florida Council of the Blind, Sheila Young to its Board of Directors to occupy the Consumer Affairs Chair.
Through the “Access Ready Inclusion Can’t Wait” listening sessions we are also finding support from consumers who want to assist. Soon other pathways for involvement that encourage more consumer advocates to get involved will open up. The Access Ready Execution Team is hoping for your involvement. Please contact us with your ideas through
input@accessready.org and we will welcome your help. Soon other experts in consumer needs will be joining the effort. If you’re interested in volunteering to serve on our Board of Directors or a taskforce or committee, please contact us through info@accessready.org. The consumer groups that are affected by inaccessible information technology is significant and includes millions of people with a wide array of disabilities and abilities. We need input from all of you. Its personal and your help is vital.

As the galaxy of information technology continues to grow exponentially the danger to the futures of people with disabilities is growing. To meet this challenge, we must band together to help guide information technology developers, providers, buyers, and users into a fully accessible world through an Access Ready Policy. With millions of inaccessible websites, software’s and devices in the market and millions more to follow it is up to each of us to do our part as an individual advocate. We are all consumers of goods and services from business, government, and nonprofits and working together we can make a difference. Some may choose to work from inside their employer and Access Ready will support you. Some may choose to work in their community shedding light on inaccessible information technology where they find it and Access Ready will support you. It is all about you, the consumer.

Political Realitites in the Disability Community

Change can be a scary thing. These orange neon letters on a dark background spelling out change, reminds us that without change, there would be no civil rights.

Politechnobility
Both technology and disability should be bipartisan at their very core. We all do or could benefit from technology and we are all subject to potential disability in our personal or family lives at any time. Many like to say that both are bipartisan, but we all know that like so many other things today they are not politics-free zones. The great debate over the effect of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media-driven technologies are having on the American political system is occupying much of our national discourse. For the past fifty plus years, the politics of disability have likewise consumed not only public debate but a growing part of local, state and federal budgets. There is not a great lack of funding that is denying peoples civil rights. There is a great lack of political will that is allowing technology to undermine the intent behind disability law and budgets.

It is not just the raw party politics that affect both technology and disability. There are many kinds of politics that put pressure on both subjects from a spectrum of positions. It is this spectrum of the civic, corporate, party and social-political pressure that is responsible for the alarms being raised about inaccessible information technology and the risk it poses to the civic, employment and social futures of millions of people with disabilities. There is a justifiable legal position to require that information technology be accessible to people with disabilities. The spectrum of political will does not clearly exist and that is why Access Ready has been formed. As a disability advocacy organization, it cannot ignore the political pressures from many directions that will come to bear on what is referred to as politechnobility.

Access Ready as an organization understands that it needs the best leadership on the subject of the political sciences. Leadership from a political practitioner who has worked at the local, state and national levels. A political player who has worked inside government, party, and lobbying mechanisms across a wide range of subjects. A family leader who understands the who, what, where, when and how politics of the moment effects average Americans. A political scientist who approaches every circumstance with a keen intent to learn, understand, analyze and strategize a short and long-term response to the most complex political situations. Access Ready is honored to welcome William L. “Chip” Smith, a 29-year veteran in the arena of government affairs to its Board of Directors.

The politics of information technology as it combines with a disability is a significant opportunity to set things on the right path. Much of the issue is related to a lack of understanding which requires education. Policymakers, enforcers, and developers have clearly not yet grasped how important accessible information technology is to the future of people with disabilities. Accessible information technology presents such a wide range of possibilities for the inclusion of people with disabilities across all spectrums of civic, employment and social life. Inaccessible technology, on the other hand, is a clear and present danger to the future of people with disabilities in our modern technology-driven society. Access Ready is in the business of educating everyone on the urgent need for a policy change that makes accessing information technology a matter of course and not an afterthought.

As an organization, we cannot and will not ignore the political realities that come to bear on Access Ready’s policy efforts. This politechnbility space is a reality and Access Ready is gathering the best Execution Team available to educate, guide and manage the policy path it must follow to reach the tipping point necessary to bring about a fundamental shift in the information technology universe. Anyone who does not grasp the global issue of how inaccessible technology will negatively impact the future of people with disabilities is a subject for educational efforts and many of them are in the political marina. Access Ready’s polotechnobility strategy is education across the entire spectrum of players that can affect the outcome of the global policy drive to make inaccessible technology a think of the past and the possibilities created by accessibility a reality.

Douglas George Towne

Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Access Ready Incorporated

The Freedom Technology Offers Should be Expected by Disabled Employees and Students

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 new technology a punitive barrier. 

Accessible technology is vital to the disabled at home and in the work place.  Many find that their investment in accessibility does not result in sales even when mandated by law. 

The ADA and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act require that technology be accessible.  The vendors are willing and we must insist that buyers comply with the law. 


Developers like Discover Technologies have invested millions in product accessibility only to find that buyers don’t care even when the law requires it.  Government and big business workers with disabilities are not insisting on a level technology playing field with their coworkers.  Even when the product is the only path to access like in the case of Discover Access for Share Point. 

If employees with disabilities don’t start demanding equal access alongside their coworkers then companies will stop including access in product design. We must recognize that this is not just about disability rights, but millions of dollars of investment as well.  If they stop developing accessibility then no one will have access in the workplace. 

 

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