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.