Access Ready Elections
American Council of The Blind – Voter Verification Systems Resolution 2018 – Read More
National Federation of The Blind – Poll Book Resolution 2018 – Read More
National Council on Independent Living – Voter Verification Systems Resolution 2019 – Read More
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990, the Internet as we know it today did not exist as the ubiquitous infrastructure for information and commerce. Neither did the information technology-driven workplace. Today the internet and information technology (IT) play a critical role in the daily personal, professional and civic life of Americans. This also encompasses more and more how the election process works.
Access Ready Inc. is a nonprofit cross disability 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 and we would welcome your support.
Many election officials under Title II of the (ADA) are using websites and IT to provide public access to election services. To support these activities, the internal or employee facing operations of election offices are also driven by IT. An Access Ready policy is intended to advance accessibility across the information technology used in the election process.
Many websites and the IT used in election offices render use by individuals with disabilities difficult or impossible. Barriers imposed by technology that has not been required to be accessible is, in large part, to blame. Emerging technology, such as electronic poll books, must be required to be accessible if officials are going to create Access Ready Elections.
Being unable to access websites and emerging IT puts voters with disabilities at a great disadvantage in today’s election process, which is driven by a dynamic electronic service delivery model. The Access Ready Environment is one where website and IT accessibility is designed in from the outset. It is vital that election officials require accessibility now because election systems purchased today will be in use for a decade.
For many, it is now difficult to imagine a world without the unprecedented access to information that the web provides. Why would it be acceptable not to provide such access to people with disabilities? Especially in the context of voting, where access to information is essential, no other minority would stand for such limitations and society would not allow such a thing. For election officials to ignore people with disabilities as a constituency in the end to end election process is a tremendous mistake. This minority now includes twenty-five percent of the general population according to the Centers for Disease Control. An Access Ready policy moves elections in the right direction.
It is a fact that information technology is dramatically changing the way election offices serve their constituents. Election officials are increasingly providing their constituents access to election services through their websites. By adopting an Access Ready Policy, election officials can achieve and maintain accessibility on the web and through their information technology. Through election websites, the public can obtain information or securely correspond with local officials. They can register to vote, and access HTML ballots that allow them to vote absentee. The availability of these online services makes life easier for voters, and enables election officials to operate more transparently, efficiently and cost effectively. As a closed system, election officials can assure the public of the security of their vote in a more transparent manner.
The disability community now represents significantly more than 25% of the electorate. In addition, people with disabilities represent a vast untapped talent pool ready to join the election workforce and poll worker pool. Given the rehabilitation funding spent by taxpayers it is foolish not to seek out qualified individuals with disabilities. But inaccessible employee-facing and poll worker-facing technology may prevent these workers from doing their jobs.
What is needed is the adoption of an Access Ready Policy that applies to IT across the election process. The promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in and benefit from all aspects of American civic life, including elections, will be achieved in today’s technologically advanced society only if it is clear to election officials that their information technology systems must be accessible.
By adopting an Access Ready Policy, election officials can achieve and maintain accessibility of their online and voting technology. The Access Ready environment is one where IT is designed and purchased accessibly from the outset – when it is easiest, least expensive, and most effective – and is not an afterthought. In addition, an Access Ready policy provides a strategic approach to incorporating accessibility into existing technology over time. Embracing an Access Ready policy can accomplish this over a five-year budget cycle without real difficulty. Finally, because becoming accessible is only the beginning – without policies in place to maintain it, the effort is wasted – an Access Ready policy helps ensure accessibility barriers will not reemerge over time.
Douglas George Towne
Chair and Chief Executive Officer
Access Ready Inc.