The state of Ohio is violating federal law by failing to make its voting services accessible to people with visual disabilities, according to a new lawsuit filed December 7 by Disability Rights Ohio and Brown, Goldstein, & Levy, LLP, on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind and three other individuals.
“Secretary of State (Jon) Husted has the responsibility to ensure that all eligible Ohioans have equal access to the state’s voting systems and resources,” DRO Attorney Kristen Henry said in a news release. “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.”
According to the complaint, the Secretary of State’s website is not equipped with screen reading software. As a result, people with visual disabilities can not access a range of important downloadable publications, including the Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request Forms, the Voter Access Guide, the Voter Registration Instructions and the Guide to Voting in Ohio.
Absentee ballots are only available in written formats, thus preventing people with visual disabilities seeking to vote privately and independently from doing so.
The plaintiffs assert that the state’s failure to provide these services violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, seeks to have these problems remedied before the March 15 primary election.
“Voting is important to me, and I want to be able to read through the materials and be prepared for the upcoming Republican primary,” said Shelbi Hindel, a plaintiff in the case, in a news release. “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.”
A video from ABC 6 about the lawsuit can be seen here.
Disability Rights Ohio and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Ohio and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.