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May 7th, 2021
Access Ready in conjunction with its Maryland Community Partners met on May 7th by audio-video conference with representatives of Maryland’s State Board of Elections. (SBE)
Alongside Access Ready as partners in this advocacy challenge is: The Image Center for People with Disabilities, The National Association of the Deaf, The National Council on Independent Living, and The National Federation of the Blind.
This advocacy challenge developed when the SBE put out a request for proposal for a new pollbook system for use in Maryland elections.Then, in the opinion of the Community partners, the state rejected the proposal of the only accessible pollbook system that the organizations had been asked to test and give input on. In the opinion of the organizations and their legal counsel the rejection had been based on minor technicalities.
In response to a letter sent jointly by the five organizations the SBE requested this conference.
While the SBE representatives assured the group that they would follow the law where access for all disability groups is concerned, they would make no commitment to having accessibility experts with disabilities test the proposed systems.
During the discussion it came out that in some cases poll workers are not following state statute where the self-identification of voters is concerned. This raises questions about whether the Maryland statute is in violation of Federal privacy laws. This is a separate issue from the accessibility of the intended pollbooks.
Working across many information technologies uses the Community Partners put forth the understanding that accessibility is no longer rocket science. All it takes is a little effort, thought and the will to make a commitment to accessibility. Given this as a fact when asked why the state would not seek the most accessible pollbook system possible the SBE representative stated that they were.
This came across as a condescending platitude meant to satisfy the Community Partners only to be ignored going forward by the SBE.
Disability advocates have witnessed the effects of such statements to many times with inaccessibility being the result. After the fact, the purveyors of such statements often say, “we will make our next choice more accessible!” When systems are chosen that will be in place for a decade or more like the intended Maryland pollbook this approach puts accessibility far into the future.
It became apparent that this conference was a check box discussion for the SBE. That it was something they were doing to say they had done.
It became necessary at the end of the discussion for the group to make it clear that this was not a check box discussion. That if the SBE chose a pollbook that was not accessible to the blind, visually impaired, deaf and those with dexterity limiting disabilities at a minimum that the group was not going away. That they would take issue with any system whose providers said it is accessible but does not actually provide access.
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Current Legal Actions
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ACCESSIBILITY IS NOT OPTIONAL
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