Advance Notice: Briefs

ADA complaint: Detroit voters with disabilities barred from accessing election info on city website

By: - October 28, 2021 12:58 pm

City of Detroit offices, Coleman A. Young Municipal Center | Susan J. Demas

Detroit voters with disabilities are unable to access crucial information about Tuesday’s election through the city Department of Elections website, according to an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint filed by Detroit Disability Power (DDP).

DDP, a disability rights organization, said in a statement Thursday that it filed the complaint with the city of Detroit after repeatedly reaching out to Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey about accessibility issues on the city website and receiving no adequate response. 

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey at the TCF Center in Detroit | Andrew Roth

Winfrey, Detroit’s longtime city clerk, is running for reelection against Denzel McCampbell, a voting rights activist who has worked as a communications director for U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit). Winfrey did not respond to a request for comment about the ADA complaint.

Specifically, DDP noted in its complaint that the list of satellite voting locations for Tuesday’s election has only been available through a downloadable PDF, which people who are visually impaired and blind cannot access through screen readers. 

“We are five days out from Election Day and still the City of Detroit’s website does not have screenreader-useable information about the upcoming election,” Dessa Cosma, executive director of DDP, said in a statement. “The disability community should not have to fight so hard to have basic accommodations, such as accessible information about where we can vote or drop off our ballots. There are more than 128,000 disabled residents of our city, including more than 27,000 Detroiters with visual impairments. We want to engage in the democratic process –– it must be accessible.”

After initially receiving no response from the City Clerk’s office, DDP said in Thursday’s release that the organization “finally spoke with someone early last week.” But the City Clerk’s office still has not amended the website to include information accessible by people who are blind or visually impaired, DDP said.

DDP noted that voters who are blind or visually impaired can access voting information at michiganvoting.org/hide-satellite-voting-locations and 313votes.org.

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Anna Gustafson
Anna Gustafson

Anna Gustafson is the assistant editor at Michigan Advance, where her beats include economic justice, health care and immigration. Previously the founder of the Muskegon Times and the editor at Rapid Growth Media in Grand Rapids, Anna has worked as an editor and reporter for news outlets across the country. She began her journalism career reporting on state politics in Wisconsin and has gone on to cover government, racial justice and immigration reform in New York City, education in Connecticut, the environment in Wyoming, and more. Previously, Anna lived in Argentina and Morocco, and, when she’s not working, she’s often trying to perfect the empanada and couscous recipes she fell in love with in these countries. You’ll likely also find her working on her century-old home in downtown Lansing, writing that ever-elusive novel and hiking throughout Michigan.

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