iPad Accessibility Features to Improve Voting Process for Users with Disabilities

By Rachel Ramsey November 09, 2011

In a campaign to allow people with disabilities to vote independently and privately, Oregon has launched the process of casting ballots through an iPad.

As the first state in the nation to have all of its residents vote by mail, Oregon is following its innovative past by taking the opportunity to adapt to new technology.

The experiment is focused on using the iPad as a means of voting; voting by the iPad, not through it. The device would be used to mark a ballot, which would then be dispensed from a portable printer and mailed to elections offices for counting.

For users with disabilities, voting by means of the iPad proves many advantages. For voters with poor vision, the iPad allows the adjustment of font size and screen colors. For voters with hearing problems, the iPad can read candidates’ names and the voter pamphlet out loud. For voters with limited mobility, such as severe arthritis, a “sip and puff” device is available to control the screen.

Bluetooth wireless technology allows voters to connect their own accessibility tools to the iPad.

Apple has provided solutions for people with disabilities for more than 20 years, allowing them to access and enjoy Apple products, including the iPad.

Assistive technology in Apple’s products come standard, such as screen magnification and VoiceOver, a screen-access technology, for the blind and visually impaired. To assist those with cognitive and learning disabilities, every Mac includes an alternative, simplified user interface that rewards exploration and learning.

For users who find it difficult to use a mouse, every Mac computer includes Mouse Keys, Slow Keys, and Sticky Keys, which all adapt the computer to the user’s needs and capabilities. Braille mirroring is the world’s first screen reader than can be controlled using gestures; it enables deaf and blind users to work together on the same computer at the same time.

The iPad has drawn support from several sectors of the health care and therapeutic communities because features such as closed-captioning, magnification, audible readout functions and touch sensitive screen are built-in to the device, allowing people whose disabilities hamper their communication abilities to more easily have a voice.

The iPad’s portability, simplicity and relatively low cost will help election officials by making it easier to deploy to more places and reach more voters.

The voting-by-iPad system will be used in the special general election in January. If the pilot project is successful, Oregon will make the service available across the state.

To bring the program statewide, Oregon would need at least 72 iPads, 2 per county, $500 each, and portable printers, about $50 each. Apple has already donated five devices for the experiment and the state has spent about $75,000 to develop the software.

In recent news, Walgreens has announced that pharmacists at its 16 Chicago stories will be given Apple tablets for instant access to customers’ medical records, Walgreens prescription history, and other electronic medical records (EHRs) that are available for veterans or government employees, all to streamline operations and reduce costs.



Rachel Ramsey is a TechZone360 editorial assistant, contributing news items and feature articles on a variety of communications and technology topics. Rachel has previously worked in PR and communications at The Wriglesworth Consultancy, an award-winning London PR firm. She has also contributed to the creative services department at CBS 3 and The CW Philly in Philadelphia. To read more of Rachel's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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