A note on ADA’s 31st year anniversary

I am a blind Utahn and I’m proud to be part of a strong blind community that is socially, politically, and economically independent. Blind people use adaptive methods to live independently every day and in every possible way, and the last two decades have been particularly impactful on our community with incredible innovations in smartphones and intuitive voice recognition.

There are 50,000 Utahns and 1 million Americans like me. However, every time I try to vote, the process does not reflect the way I live the rest of my life and instead it is unnecessarily difficult. The disconnect is unacceptable.

Jeff Smith, Blind Voter, Salt Lake Tribune, February 17, 2021 

Jeff’s story is at the core of our mission: creating voter access for all. That mission serves democracy and is under threat. The technology exists to make voting accessible for people living with disabilities, but short-sighted legislation and regulations have made it needlessly difficult. 

A debate has emerged in which security and access have been pitted against each other. But our work has shown that it does not have to be this way. Our collaboration with election officials, researchers, and our case studies has shown that with advancements in mobile technology, blockchain, and monitoring we can keep critical infrastructure safe and be able to meet the needs of voters like Jeff.

The conversation needs to evolve. The very same critics who argued that any technology connected to the internet cannot be secured paradoxically argued that the last presidential election was the most secure to date, despite all the flaws in the traditional infrastructure.

This election was the best use case for increasing (not decreasing) the options for voting, including web-based voting and smartphone app-based voting, to bolster the strength of our democracy. 

After we’ve experienced, in the critics’ own words, the most secure elections to date, why would we move backward? Why would we revert to a time when the most vulnerable sections of society were effectively disenfranchised? Many critics purport to be scientists and advocates of research, innovation, and experimentation. This very absolutist attitude against any move forward goes against the very ethos of science. 

In January, 20 disability organizations urged lawmakers to exempt people with disabilities from the paper ballot mandate, noting that a paper ballot mandate would end all voting system innovation.  It would stop efforts to produce a fully accessible voting system that provides enhanced security without relying on inaccessible paper. 

Frustrated voting rights advocates have filed lawsuits to secure the ability for people to vote. The Southern Poverty Law Center sued Alabama officials on behalf of several voters with disabilities. A federal district court agreed with the arguments and lifted the challenging requirements. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit stayed that order.

When mobile voting is measured on the same yardstick as an absentee mail-in ballot for people with disabilities, here is how it stacks up:  

Voting MethodID PrivacyAudit
Mail-in ballot/ absentee ballotEmail confirmation Blind and voters with limited use of limbs – give us privacy Traditional risk-limiting audits, where voters do not  receive a ballot receipt and have no ability to audit the individual ballot
Mobile voting There is a 3-tiered ID verification Email, phone approval Video, photo and biometric confirmation Photo ID All voters will use devices already customized to them Complete end to end audit – with a voter receipt containing an anonymous ID that can be used to privately audit the ballot in a public citizens audit  

The recent election cycle has showcased beyond a doubt the urgency for voter engagement and building a chain of trust in our electoral processes; fundamental to that is ensuring that they can vote easily, privately, and securely. We invite you to join our movement to leverage technology to scale that access to more vulnerable voters. 

Who benefits from mobile voting?

While the pandemic has highlighted the desperate need for better remote voting options in the United States and other parts of the world, for many groups this lack of options is not a new concern. Voters with disabilities, overseas military personnel, Native Americans, and so many others lack equal access to the ballot during every single election – COVID-19 has only exacerbated an existing problem. Offering well-tested alternatives to traditional in-person and mail-in voting methods serves only to make our elections more equal and fair.

Bottom line: All citizens deserve access to a safe, secure, and accessible method of voting remotely – mobile voting can help us get there. 

To experience a full download of this graphic—with detailed explanations of how each demographic can benefit from mobile voting – click the button below.

Voatz Collaborates with WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Media to Make Mobile Voting Accessible for Voters with Disabilities and Citizens Residing Overseas

BOSTON, Nov. 04, 2019 — Voatz, a Boston-based elections company focused on secure mobile voting , announced a collaboration with the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH Educational Foundation (NCAM) to test the accessibility features of the company’s secure mobile voting application.

The mobile voting application, available on compatible Android and iOS devices, allows deployed military personnel and overseas U.S. citizens, as well as people with disabilities, to conveniently and securely vote in elections with their smartphones from virtually anywhere in the world.


“We’re proud to collaborate with NCAM to help make sure people with disabilities have accessible means to raise their voices in elections,” said Nimit Sawhney, Voatz co-founder and CEO.  “For too long, the needs of citizens with disabilities have largely been ignored in the perceived conflict between security and convenience. Voatz believes that citizens with disabilities deserve to take advantage of the advanced accessibility features available on modern smartphones. Democracy is at its best when all citizens can vote securely without limitation—physical or geographic.”


Secured with blockchain technology and rigorously tested for ease of use, the app allows eligible users the option to forgo inaccessible paper  ballots currently submitted by postal mail, facsimile or email. The Voatz app provides voters with an auditable confirmation and produces a fully marked paper ballot for tabulation, thereby providing unprecedented levels of end-to-end auditability and verifiability.


In our tests, we have found Voatz’s platform to be highly accessible,” said Donna A. Danielewski, Ph.D., Senior Director of NCAM. “It allows individuals with disabilities to participate in the democratic voting process in a clear and accessible way. We look forward to continuing to work with Voatz  in testing the platform as they work to bring it to more markets.”


About NCAM

For nearly three decades, the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has been a national leader in making digital media accessible for people with disabilities. The team in NCAM—with more than 150 years of combined experience in accessibility—are pioneers, inventors, and problem-solvers, frequently anticipating and creating solutions for tomorrow’s technology challenges. 


About WGBH

WGBH is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Arthur, and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH also is a major source of digital content and programs for public radio through PRX, including The World and Innovation Hub; a leader in educational multimedia with PBS LearningMedia™, providing the nation’s educators with free, curriculum-based digital content; and a pioneer in services that make media accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired audiences. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors, including Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards and Oscars. More info at www.wgbh.org.


About Voatz

Voatz is an award-winning mobile elections platform that leverages military-grade technology (including biometrics and a blockchain-based infrastructure) to increase accessibility and security in elections. Voatz has run more than 50 elections with state and local governments, cities, universities, towns, nonprofits, and both major state political parties for convention voting. Last year, Voatz partnered with West Virginia to empower deployed military and overseas citizens to vote, marking the first mobile votes in U.S. history. In 2019 Voatz expanded its pilots to Denver and Utah, both of which held citizen’s public-facing audits, hosted by the National Cybersecurity Center.  Recently, two counties in Oregon have also started to pilot the Voatz platform. All pilots have led to an increased turnout and in the case of Denver, 100% of voters responding to a post-election survey said they preferred this method of voting to any other. Learn more here.