Blind Oberlin voter says Ohio registration website incompatible with some voice over software

Voter calling for a speedy fix
Posted at 1:01 PM, Jun 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-10 13:04:28-04

A blind Oberlin woman said a software issue almost stopped her from voting in this year’s primary and now she’s pushing for a fix before the elections next fall. 

Barbara Pierce is one of three plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted alleging that some voting services in the state are not accessible. 

Pierce told she’s been losing her eyesight since the age of two and was formally diagnosed with a rare form of blindness known as retinitis pigmentosa later in life.

Pierce uses a Macintosh computer and iPhone “VoiceOver” software that comes standard on many Apple products.  

She said she encountered her first major problem with the software when she tried to update her voting address on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website prior to the primary election. 

“The cursor would jump and it would jump up to the previous edit box and it would write over what I had done before and then I couldn’t correct,” Pierce explained. 

She said she stalled finishing up her registration because she was told the issue would be fixed. But when it wasn’t corrected in time, her husband had to register for her on paper. 

“It was very frustrating,” said Pierce, who has always valued her independence. 

ierce said that the website is compatible with voice over software built for PCs, but the program can cost as much as $1,295. 

“You’re asking a lot to get somebody to fork over $1,000 for a program,” Pierce said. “When the software comes standard on a Mac.” 

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office told that they’ve been working on the problem for a year. 

“The majority of the work is complete, but our IT team is still making some tweaks to get everything in order,” the spokesperson said in a statement. 

The Secretary of State’s office offered to personally look into Pierce’s issue and try to resolve it. 

Disability Rights Ohio told that they are also working with the Secretary of State's Office on accessibility problems. 

Pierce said she’s hopeful that all issues will be solved in time for the November election. 

“Whatever is available to the sighted public we want to be have available to the visually impaired public as well,” she said. “We want to vote.”