Disability Rights Ohio lawsuit claims Ohio Secretary of State's voting services violate the ADA

December 7, 2015 / voting

Disability Rights Ohio and the law firm of Brown, Goldstein, & Levy, LLP, have filed a federal lawsuit against the office of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. The suit, filed on behalf of three blind Ohio voters and the National Federation of the Blind, alleges that some voting services in Ohio are not accessible. This is in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Registered Ohio voters Shelbi Hindel, Barbara Pierce, and Marianne Denning are blind and unable to access important voting information and forms on the Secretary of State’s website because of the site’s inaccessible design and inability to work with screen access software. Additionally, because Ohio’s absentee ballots are only available on paper, blind voters are unable to fill them out without assistance—an infringement on their right to cast a ballot privately and independently. The suit asks the court to order Secretary of State Husted’s office to make the changes needed to rectify these problems before the March 15, 2016, primary election in Ohio.

“Voting is important to me, and I want to be able to read through the materials and be prepared for the upcoming Republican primary,” explains Hindel. “Current technology makes reading text easy for the blind, provided the text is available in the right format. My polling location recently moved to a site further from my house, so voting absentee is a more convenient way for me to exercise my right to vote.”

According to Kristen Henry, attorney at Disability Rights Ohio, “Secretary of State Husted has the responsibility to ensure that all eligible Ohioans have equal access to the state’s voting systems and resources. The solutions for the problems we’re raising are readily available. Unfortunately, our attempts to collaborate with the state on this issue have not been successful.”

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The technology to allow blind voters to mark absentee ballots privately and independently is available and has been used successfully by blind voters, myself included. This technology protects ballot secrecy and puts blind voters on an equal footing with all other voters, as well as helping voters who have disabilities in addition to blindness that prevent them from getting to a polling place or using the voter technology available there. The National Federation of the Blind will continue to fight for the right of blind people in Ohio and throughout the nation to vote privately and independently.”

About Disability Rights Ohio: Disability Rights Ohio is the federally and state designated Protection and Advocacy System and Client Assistance Program for the state of Ohio. The mission of Disability Rights Ohio is to advocate for the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities in Ohio. Disability Rights Ohio provides legal advocacy and rights protection to a wide range of people with disabilities.

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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