Blind voters rip e-machines, say defects thwart goal of enfranchising

From: charlie strauss <cems_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Wed May 19 2004 - 14:53:27 CDT

the following article mentions Noel Runyan, a blind voter and computer scientist who is an expert in
designing accessible systems. Perhaps OVC should recruit him?

Handicapped voters in california speak out about touch screens.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Blind voters rip e-machines, say defects thwart goal of enfranchising
By Elise Ackerman, San Jose Mercury News, May 15, 2004


Disabled-rights groups have been some of the strongest supporters of
electronic voting, but blind voters in Santa Clara County said the
machines performed poorly and were anything but user-friendly in the
March election.

``Very few of our members were able to vote privately, independently,
despite Santa Clara County's supposed `accessible' touch screens,''
Dawn Wilcox, president of the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind,
wrote in a letter to the registrar of voters after the March primary.
``I feel this is an unacceptable state of affairs.''


Wilcox said in an interview that she surveyed more than 50 members of
her group after hearing anecdotal accounts of Election Day snafus. Only
two members said the machines had functioned smoothly. About a dozen
provided detailed descriptions of the problems they experienced using
the audio technology that was supposed to guide them through the ballot
and help them cast a vote in secret.

Four voters said the audio function did not appear to work at all.
Others waited up to half an hour for poll workers to trouble-shoot the
devices. Sam Chen, a retired college professor, said he was happy to
finally hear an initial message, but then the machine balked. After
struggling for an hour, Chen asked a poll worker to cast a ballot on
his behalf. ``I wish I had voted on my own,'' he said.


Wilcox's survey of blind voters has roiled the disabled-rights
community, which lobbied heavily for a federal law requiring every
polling place in every state to provide at least one electronic voting
machine equipped for disabled voters by 2006.


The report by the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind shows ``the gap
between the advertised accessibility of these machines and the
reality,'' said Will Doherty, an executive director of the Verified
Voting Foundation, an advocacy group that supports Shelley's directive.


Noel Runyan, a blind voter and computer scientist who is an expert in
designing accessible systems, said touch screens are a good idea in
theory, but they need a thorough redesign to work in practice. He said
the voting companies appeared to have ignored feedback they solicited
from groups of blind voters as they were developing their systems.

Among the criticism provided by voters was poor sound quality, delayed
response time and braille that was positioned so awkwardly it could
only be read upside down. Chen, the college professor, also said the
audio message required blind voters to press a yellow button. ``Yellow
means nothing to me,'' Chen said.

``I personally want them to be decertified for this election,'' Runyan
said. ``We need to make a strong statement that all these machines need
to be redesigned on the user interface side. We've got a mistake
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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:54 2004

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