of the Usability and Accessibility Center. "Part two of HAVA, however, set aside funding for local governments to assure access for individuals with disabilities."

It is believed that the move to electronic voting machines, including touchscreen, will improve access for all voters, including those with disabilities. But some debate has arisen around this issue of electronic voting machines. One such controversy came in the November 2006 Sarasota County, Florida, 13th Congressional district race, which had an extreme undervote of 12 to 15 percent compared to the rest of the ballot. This district used a touchscreen voting machine. Swierenga presented the findings of a study into the reasons for the undervote, as conducted by the Usability and Accessibility Center.

First Screen
Screen shot of Florida voting machine screenOn the first page of the ballot, obvious color bars (red and blue) are used to designate titles of sections, and pale grey lines are used to separate the individual races.

Second Screen
Screen shot of Florida voting machine screenWhen moving on to page two, the eye is automatically drawn to the title in blue, which was the gubernatorial race. Above this section, barely noticeable, is the 13th Congressional district race.

"In this case," explained Swierenga, "Usability testing revealed that the heading for the [13th congressional district] race probably was not prominent enough." It was in the same place that the ballot heading was on the first page, which "may cause voters to ignore it, assuming subconsciously that it's the same thing." The ballot was not consistent from page to page, making it difficult for voters, including those who have visual impairments.

Swierenga did make recommendations for improving voting accessibility for all voters:

  • Don't assume that the voters are familiar with technology
  • Headings and instructions should be active voice, in simple, declarative sentences, using plain language
  • There should be one race per page
  • Make sure there is contrast between backgrounds and text
With the many issues affecting the daily lives of those with disabilities, adding technology to the gamut may not amount to much. But as technology becomes even more integral to life, it is vital to make reasonable accommodations.

Accessibility Resources:

San Diego State University

University of Colorado at Boulder


ADA Guide for Local Governments: Emergency Preparedness and People with Disabilities
Gina M. Scott  |  Writer