[NFBOK-Talk] National Federation of the Blind and Others Sue New York over Inaccessible Online Voter Registration for People with Disabilities

Jeannie Massay jmassay1 at cox.net
Sat Jun 11 19:57:28 UTC 2016

Chris Danielsen, NFB, (410) 659-9314, cdanielsen at nfb.org
<mailto:cdanielsen at nfb.org> 
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, (212) 284-7347, isarda-sorensen at aclu.org
<mailto:isarda-sorensen at aclu.org> 
Christina Brandt-Young, DRA, (212) 644-8644, cbrandt-young at dralegal.org
<mailto:cbrandt-young at dralegal.org>  


National Federation of the Blind and Others Sue New York over Inaccessible
Online Voter Registration for People with Disabilities


New York (June 9, 2016): The National Federation of the Blind, the Center
for the Independence of the Disabled, and individual plaintiffs who are
blind, today sued the New York State Board of Elections and Department of
Motor Vehicles (DMV) over online voter registration that is inaccessible to
people with disabilities. 

States are required by law to meet accessibility and confidentiality
standards when providing services such as online voter registration, but New
York is failing to comply, the complaint charges. 

Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said:
"The right to vote is a fundamental one, and equal access to this right
cannot and must not be denied to blind Americans. Equal access means the
ability to participate in all aspects of the voting process, including
registering to vote, with complete privacy and independence. The National
Federation of the Blind is committed to ensuring equal access for blind
voters in New York and across the nation."


"There are many barriers that can stand in the way of New Yorkers with
disabilities exercising their right to vote. The shame of inaccessible
online registration is that there is an easy and inexpensive fix. It's a
mystery why the New York State Board of Elections refuses to do it, and it's
disappointing. People with disabilities have the right to privacy and
independent registration and voting just like every other New York voter.
It's the law," said Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for
Independence of the Disabled, New York.

"Online voter registration is key to ensuring access to the ballot for
people with disabilities. Yet in New York, it's not just difficult for
hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities to register online, it's
virtually impossible," said ACLU attorney Susan Mizner. "We've told the
state where the worst barriers are. It can easily fix the problems, but has
refused to do so. "


Those barriers include DMV webpages and downloadable forms that can't be
read out loud by the screen-reader software used by blind and low-vision
people to hear and navigate computer screen content. On the privacy rights
front, the software cannot read the fillable form's section on party
affiliation on the Board of Elections website; blind and low-vision voters
are forced to disclose this private information when they print out the form
and get someone else to help them sign it, destroying their privacy and


Plaintiff Eva Eason of New York City encountered numerous obstacles when
attempting to update her voter information online after getting married.
Eason, who is blind, could not access the DMV site at all, and was only able
to access the Board of Elections online registration after getting
assistance from someone who is sighted, compromising her privacy and


"A lot of people paved the way and fought for me to be able to vote, so why
is New York making it so difficult?" said Eason. 

Plaintiff Meghan Schoeffling of Albany added, "I was thrilled when New York
created an online voter registration form, thinking it would enable me and
others to register to vote privately and independently for the first time.
But because the DMV failed to ensure the site was fully accessible, I was
unable to register to vote without sighted assistance." 


"Everyone has the right to register to vote privately and independently, and
online services are a great way to make that happen. Yet, because the
state's websites aren't coded to operate with screen readers and other
accessibility software, voters with disabilities can't access those
services. Voters should not be excluded from online registration or have
their privacy violated just because they have a disability," said Disability
Rights Advocates attorney Christina Brandt-Young.

The lawsuit cites violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the
Rehabilitation Act. It seeks immediate adjustments to ensure the websites
are legally compliant, creation of Board of Elections policies that ensure
accessibility and provide a clear path of accountability, and the
development of policies and procedures to ensure the sites remain

The complaint, Eason et al. v. New York State Board of Elections
(1:16-cv-4292), was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District
of New York. Plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties
Union; Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP; and Disability Rights Advocates.

More information is at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5naCnk0fs4


About the National Federation of the Blind 

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the
characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the
expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles
between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want;
blindness is not what holds you back.



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