Accessible Mobile Voting Systems

The accessibility of the voting process is a critical issue facing our society. Existing systems, including those designed with accommodating technologies and accessibility features, are not fully accessible to people with disabilities. In addition to issues with voting systems, polling places are often difficult to get to for people with disabilities, and limitations on the number of accessible voting systems available at a location and the considerable amount of time required to complete a vote using accommodating technologies create serious difficulties for people with disabilities attempting to vote (including bottlenecks on the number that can vote).

The rise of internet-enabled mobile technologies, however, provides an opportunity to increase the accessibility of voting for people with disabilities. First, it removes the need to travel to a particular location, which is often challenging for individuals with disabilities (particularly difficult in rural areas with distant polling places and lacking public transportation). Second, it allows the voter to use their own technology. This provides for the use of customized and preferred accessibility solutions that are already familiar to each voter. By creating accessible mobile voting systems standards, more individuals with disabilities will be able to successfully vote in elections, and will face less difficulties and discomforts in doing so. Additionally, such an application would have applications to overseas voting and any other circumstance in which the voter cannot easily get to a polling location.

The project resulted in the creation of an accessible user interface and interaction design for mobile voting systems that can be used by developers to create an accessible mobile voting system. The system could be used by voters to fill out and potentially submit ballots on personal devices outside the polling the place.

We created detailed user interface designs for all screens and pages necessary to complete the standard NIST Test Ballot, and also provided designs for instructions, options, and review screens. Design specifications include not only the user interface design, but also a detailed interaction design, indicating what the system should do when any particular action is taken by the user on each screen (including swipes, button hotspots, and object highlighting).

The final design recommendation is flexible and current, making use of the latest advances and most accessible systems while still being usable on older and less able devices. For example, the system allows users to employ the standard keyboard input on the device for write-in candidates; however, due to the variation in the accessibility of such keyboards (touchscreen vs. physical buttons, button size, etc.), the system includes a built-in alternative keyboard that is designed to be accessible.

Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.