“Lets Roll”

“Let’s Roll”
The Resolutions Committee of the American Council of the Blind voted to approve and recommend to the full convention a resolution calling for accessible check-in at polling places across the nation. The unanimous vote took place late on Sunday the 1st of July with little debate.

VOTEC Corporation’s CEO, John Medcalf, was in attendance to lend technical expertise to the discussion and said after the vote: “This is a crucial step toward acceptance of accessible check-in at the polls. It is gratifying to me to have the work of VOTEC’S team recognized.”

In the exhibit hall at the 2018 American Council of the Blind’s convention the VOTEC Welcome Voter Kiosk continues to meet with a great reception. The only complaint is that it is not being used in all polling places yet. Many vowed to take the information home to election officials and seek adoption of the system.

The Welcome Voter Kiosk from VOTEC continues to receive great reviews at the American Council of the Blind convention in St. Louis. A resolution requiring accessible check-in at polling places across the nation is awaiting approval by the entire body. Many attending the gathering are headed home to raise the issue in local election jurisdictions.

The American Council of the Blind convention in St. Louis is going well, things with the Union Station Hotel, not so much. A formal dinner held last evening that brought together leaders of Charter Communications (the parent of Spectrum Cable), The Florida Council of the Blind and Disability Relations Group began with a one hour wait at the table for drinks. The meeting as well as can be expected with Charter explaining the issues they have had providing accessibility to their customers who are blind, have low vision or another disability covered by the law since December, 2016.

At the meeting between Charter Communications, the Florida Council of the Blind and Disability Relations Group there was general agreement that access to cable programming is not only about compliance, but usability. Charter was unable to give a firm date when an acceptable system would be in place but did commit to having more information by October 1, 2018. I stated DRG’s position clearly. Those covered by the law requiring accessibility have been paying full rates and not getting full service. A demand was made that Charter needs to refund 50% of all fees paid since the law went into effect and that the discount needs to continue until accessibility is achieved.

It’s a grand old flag, a high-flying flag… As I travelled across America today from St. Louis to Hartford Connecticut patriotism was on display. From the ten-foot-tall Uncle Sam walking the concourse at the St. Louis airport handing out candy to the children, to the red-white-blue shirts, hats, scarves and shoes of my fellow travelers. As we left Union Station Hotel in St. Louis this morning preparations were in full swing for the day’s events. So much so that all the streets were blocked off around the hotel and we had to walk several blocks to find a taxi with the help of the doorman who was ranging far and wide to get us and others on our way.

America the beautiful, from sea to shining sea… Now in Hartford, Connecticut for the National Association of the Deaf convention to demonstrate the features developed by VOTEC to serve the deaf community through the Welcome Voter Kiosk. Last year, at the Deaf Leadership Conference we were given a lot of great ideas and now we are here to show the results. While not hardened into a final version yet because we want more input, we hope that the strides made will meet with great reviews. At these deaf and disability related conferences you really get to experience the genius and generosity of the American people. God bless America, land that I love…

American Council of the Blind votes unanimously to approve a resolution to require accessible check-in in polling places across the nation. At the same time the National Federation of the Blind Resolutions Committee gathered at the beginning of their national convention in Orlando voted to recommend to the full convention a similar action, going on step further in thanking VOTEC for leading the way on accessible check-in. The blind and visually impaired community is squarely behind accessible check-in at the polls.

At the National Association of the Deaf 2018 convention in Hartford the attendees have been wowed by VOTEC’s introduction of ASL instructions and the ability to communicate between the deaf voter and the poll worker through the Welcome Voter Kiosk. “Amazing technology!” “It will lead to more deaf and hard of hearing participating in voting.” “Great, stupendous, game changing!” “Fantastic, it leads to universal design.” “What VOTEC is doing will support access in so many other areas. It gives me goose bumps!”

At the National Federation of the Blind convention in Orlando, VOTEC’s Welcome Voter Kiosk continues to receive high marks in ease of use, innovation and inclusiveness from attendees. At the National Association of the Deaf convention in Hartford these same sentiments were evoked. Seldom have I seen the blind and deaf communities in total agreement where a new application of technology is concerned. Discussions with deaf-blind advocates have the potential to lead to breakthroughs in access to voting for that population who is so often overlooked.
At the National Association of the Deaf there were many deaf/blind advocates seeking access to voting. The discussions centered around a strategy put forward by Disability Relations Group that would need the political power of the deaf and blind communities to bring it to fruition.

If a Federal government agency like the Library of Congress were going to provide a device to the deaf/blind that would allow them to access books and communicate in refreshable braille: and that device could be configured so it would interact with devices like the VOTEC Welcome Voter Kiosk and accessible voting machines: and Congress could be convinced to first allow such a thing and then require election system providers to interface with such devices: Then a person who is deaf/blind could walk into their local polling place with their Federal government provided device and successfully check-in and then vote. I know it is a big if. It is also the only way I have been able to think of that would provide access at a reasonable cost with the necessary safeguards built in since the technology would be owned and provided by the government. It would take all the collective political will, power and coordination of advocates and government on what an unprecedented scale would be.

Gathered in Orlando the National Federation of the Blind unanimously voted out a resolution calling for all jurisdictions to have accessible voter check-in or poll book systems. The resolution recognizes VOTEC for leading in this field. At the National Association of the Deaf gathered in Hartford, VOTEC received great appreciation for their work on behalf of access for the deaf and was invited to exhibit at two prestigious events over the next year. First, at Gallaudet University this fall and next year at the World Federation of the Deaf convention in Paris, France. John Medcalf the CEO of VOTEC characteristically reacted “Hot Dog!” We have a lot of work to do yet, but it is gratifying to have such great advocates recognizing the teams work. Let’s roll!

 

Douglas George Towne

Chair/Chief Executive Officer – Access Ready Inc.