Ohio Must Fix Voter Website Access by September


Ohio’s secretary of state has until Sept. 29 to make the state’s voter services website accessible to blind people, according to a federal district court order.

Secretary Jon Husted’s website violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it wasn’t formatted in a way that’s accessible to all voters—especially blind voters who use screen reading software to access public websites, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio said in Hindel v. Husted.

The case marks the first time a court has ruled that a voter website violates Title II of the ADA, according to Bloomberg Law data. The Department of Justice has yet to issue regulations addressing the accessibility of government websites under the law.    

According to the court, Husted has been working to improve the website’s accessibility.  He worked with the plaintiffs of the case—the National Federation of the Blind and three blind, registered voters—to expedite updates to the site prior to the 2016 general election.  He also started the process of purchasing a new website content management system.

But Husted’s proposed completion date of November 2018 to fix the site’s accessibility issues is “unacceptable,” the court said.  Husted began addressing the issues in 2015, before the initiation of the December 2015 lawsuit.  “Secretary Husted does not provide a sufficient explanation as to why the Secretary’s Office would need an additional eighteen months to complete this project,” the court said. 

Husted spokesman Joshua Eck told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 6 that the office’s staff is going through each page of the site to ensure compatibility with screen reading software.  The work “should be completed before the end of September,” he said.