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

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Wed May 19 2004 - 17:24:00 CDT

I agree that we should work with this community in developing something better.

Best regards,

At 12:53 PM -0700 5/19/04, charlie strauss wrote:
>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

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:55 2004

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