NEW YORK – New Yorkers with vision disabilities soon will be able to navigate state Board of Elections and Department of Motor Vehicles websites.
Almost 400,000 voters across the state have visual disabilities. But because of outdated website designs, they’ve been unable to do simple things such as updating an address, changing to a married name or registering to vote. Under the terms of a legal settlement reached last week, those agencies must now start making their websites accessible to those who are blind or visually impaired.
Susan Dooha, executive director at the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York, or CIDNY, said the sites violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“By not allowing people to handle their voting information – which includes confidential information – privately and independently, the Board of Elections has been discouraging people from voting,” Dooha said.
The agencies have until the end of 2019 to bring their websites into full compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Earlier this year, New York state passed significant election law reforms, including early voting and consolidation of primary days. Dooha said the agreement to improve access to the Board of Election website represents a parallel track.
“Good government groups have always wanted to make things easier for voters,” she said. “And we have joined together to support measures that will bring more people to the polls.”
CIDNY also provided evidence in a successful legal action to ensure that polling places are accessible to people with mobility disabilities.
Much still needs to be done. Dooha noted most of the New York City subway system remains inaccessible to people with disabilities. And CIDNY has brought a lawsuit seeking to improve conditions for those who navigate hazards on the street.
“We are hoping that we will achieve a settlement agreement that will require New York City to not only bring its streets and curb cuts into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but also that they’ll maintain the accessibility,” Dooha said.
The lawsuit against the State Board of Elections was filed by CIDNY in conjunction with the National Federation For the Blind and two individual plaintiffs.
A previous version of this article was corrected. CIDNY provided evidence in a successful legal action to make polling sites accessible, they did not bring the lawsuit.