Use of Personal Assistive Technologies in Voting

The ability to vote is a cornerstone of our society; however, many individuals find themselves unable to participate, or find participating physically difficult. Individuals with physical or mental disabilities often encounter such difficulties, as do those that cannot easily reach a polling location for other reasons. Current voting systems do not adequately address accessibility concerns , and many individuals with disabilities are still unable to successfully vote, despite the best efforts of voting system manufacturers.

Specialized assistive technologies are necessary for many individuals with disabilities to vote effectively and efficiently. Individuals with limited dexterity or vision, for example, may not be able to use the standard inputs provided on electronic voting systems. While some alternative inputs (such as two-button switches and sip/puff devices) may be available at polling places, they cannot cover the range of needs that potential voters may have. Additionally, the use of personal assistive technologies is ideal in that it provides a familiar and comfortable means of interaction. Individuals with severe disabilities may only be able to effectively vote independently if they can employ personal assistive technologies. For example, an individual that can control a computer through the use of a customized, wheelchair-mounted joystick may not be able to use any other input devices.

The project explored the ways that personal assistive technologies could be connected to electronic voting systems through intermediary systems, as well as the independent use of such technologies outside the polling place.

Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.