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

Morey, Kristian KMorey at nfb.org
Thu Jun 9 20:05:43 UTC 2016

Chris Danielsen, NFB, (410) 659-9314, 
<mailto:cdanielsen at nfb.org>cdanielsen at nfb.org
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, (212) 284-7347, 
<mailto:isarda-sorensen at aclu.org>isarda-sorensen at aclu.org

Christina Brandt-Young, DRA, (212) 644-8644, 
<mailto:cbrandt-young at dralegal.org>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 independence.

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 independence.

"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 

"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 accessible.

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 


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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