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Making Voting Accessible: Designing Digital Ballot Marking for People with Low Literacy and Mild Cognitive Disabilities
Kathryn Summers, University of Baltimore; Dana Chisnell, Center for Civic Design; Drew Davies, Oxide Design Co.; Noel Alton and Megan Mckeever, University of Baltimore
This research began with a question about addressing a broader range of accessibility issues in voting than the standards in the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) require. The VVSG standards cover accessibility for low vision, blindness, and cognitive disabilities. But what if anyone could mark their ballot anywhere, any time, on any device? While the likelihood of voters voting on their own devices may be remote in the current elections environment, it is likely that election jurisdictions will begin to use consumer off the shelf devices as the voter-facing part of voting systems soon. Thus, we narrowed the scope of our research to prototyping an accessible, responsive, Web standards-compliant front end for ballot marking that would be accessible to voters with low literacy (a previously ignored voter audience) or who had mild cognitive disabilities. The final ballot interface is based on principles of “plain language” and “plain interaction.” The ballot interface is available under a Creative Commons license at anywhereballot.com. This paper reports on the rapid iterative testing and evaluation (RITE; Medlock et al., 2002) we conducted and the lessons we learned about designing a digital ballot interface for people with low literacy or mild cognitive disabilities.
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