Access Ready Government

Accessible IT Systems Should be Standard for Government Institutions and Websites

 

 

Accessibility to Government Websites, and Accessible IT Systems across all branches of Government, Should be Standard.

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 plays a critical role in the daily personal, professional and civic life of Americans. This also encompasses more and more how the election process works. Many election officials under title II of the (ADA) are using websites to provide public access to election services. To support these activities the internal or employee facing operations of election offices are driven by information technology. An Access Ready Environments policy is intended to advance accessibility across the information technology used in the election process.

Many websites and the information technology 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. New advancements such as electronic poll books are not being included in the Access Ready Election Environment. Being unable to access websites and emerging information technology 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 emerging information technology 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? No other minority would stand for such limitations and society would not allow such a thing. It is a fact that information technology is dramatically changing the way that election offices serve their constituents. Election officials are increasingly providing their constituents access to election services through their websites. By adopting an Access Ready Environments policy, election officials can achieve and maintain accessibility on the web and through their information technology. Becoming accessible is only the beginning. Without policies in place to maintain it the effort is wasted.

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. 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 Environments policy moves elections in the right direction.

The disability community including their friends and families now represents significantly more than 25% of the electorate. People with disabilities represent a vast untapped talent pool ready to join the election workforce. Given the rehabilitation funding spent by taxpayers, it is ridiculous not to seek out qualified individuals with disabilities. What is needed is the adoption of an Access Ready policy that applies to information technology across the environment. 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.

 

“Doug represents a new breed of advocate for persons with disabilities. He negotiates through his exercise of reason and logic, with a full awareness of the difficult choices responsible government requires.”

Katherine Harris August 25, 2018

“My mom told me that because of something you [Disability Relations Group] did I will be able to vote all by myself as soon as I am old enough. I don’t know what you did, but it must have been great. I want to be like you someday.”

Sarah August 25, 2018

Kathy Dent Supervisor of Elections Sarasota County Florida

“Thank you Doug. We have come a long way in four years and you, personally, have become quite a statesman!”

Kathy Dent, Supervisor of Elections August 25, 2018

Billy Altom Executive Director APRIL

“Doug brings a healthy dose of political realism to advocacy discussions. His bipartisan consultations take into account all the strategic perspectives that should be measured even when many do not want to accept them as reality.”

Billy Altom, Executive Director https://www.april-rural.org August 25, 2018

“Mr. Towne is well known and respected in the disability and general community. He has served in many capacities at National, State and local levels as a member of the National Federation for the Blind for Florida, the National Council on Independent Living, the Florida Council of the Blind, the Florida Independent Living Council and the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind to name a few. Doug led the creation of the Florida Coalition for Disability Rights. He was responsible for efforts leading to accessible voting resulting in passage of legislation at both the State and Federal levels.”

Joseph J DiDomenico, Executive Director August 25, 2018

Secretary of State Glenda Hood of Florida

“He recognizes the complexities faced by government while at the same time is able to help people on all sides of an issue seek common ground over the long term. These abilities are evident in his work on accessible voting.”

Glenda E. Hood August 25, 2018

Election Systems Software

“DRG with Doug Towne’s leadership has contributed to our business success. Doug has earned our respect and confidence through his personal and professional integrity and in depth understanding of what matters most to people with disabilities. His support allows us to drive solid product solutions in the election industry that has helped us successfully generate new customers and produce bottom-line results. In the highly political arena within the election industry that evaluates and at times challenges our products, Doug has opened doors and provided solid strategies on how to ensure full support for our products.”

Aldo Tesi, Chief Executive Officer https://essvote.com August 25, 2018