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Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 July 2005 Issue  Volume 6  Number 4

Letters to the Editor

Silent Cell Phone Seeks Software

I have been a subscriber to AccessWorld for a few months now, and I really look forward to each issue. I would like to comment on Darren Burton's very helpful article "You Get to Choose: An Overview of Accessible Cell Phones," appearing in the March issue. I recently got a new cell phone, but it does not have any special software installed on it. I had previously heard of both MobileSpeak and Talx, and I found the review of these software packages most helpful. I forwarded his article to a few friends who are on a team to help plan my future goals. Among these goals is to try and find a distributor of Talx and/or MobileSpeak. I only use my cell phone for making calls and receiving calls from others, and my father showed me where the Talk and End buttons are. He also showed me how to access my voice mail. However, I have recently received several text messages that are not picked up when I check my voice mail. The voice mail indicator kept going off, so I thought I had voice mail messages. I moved out of my parents' house last summer, and I had to call some neighbors in my apartment building to come help. One of the neighbor boys came down and told me I had several text messages as phone numbers.

Hopefully, I can purchase one of these software packages soon and unlock my phone's many features. I look forward to reading more great technology reviews in the months to come. Thank you.

Jacob Joehl

Voting Controversy

In past issues of AccessWorld, I read reviews of various DRE voting systems, but have not noticed one on the AutoMark, which, I'm told, has just been certified federally. I've seen and tried the AutoMark, but have questions about its access for people who have physical impairments, such as dexterity problems. For people who insist on having a paper ballot, the AutoMark seems the right choice, but is it? The machine seems good for people, who are visually impaired, but I question its appropriateness for all persons with disabilities.

An additional concern, which is getting lots of attention, is that of paper versus touch screen. Just how important is having paper? Does it make elections more secure and valid? In some areas, such as right here in Volusia County, Florida, debates are going on, between the need of people with print disabilities and the demand to have a "voter-verified paper ballot." In just over half a year, the requirements of HAVA [the Help America Vote Act] go into effect, and in states like Florida, that deadline has been moved up to this July 1. How are counties and states planning on dealing with these mandates? Thanks for your attention to this concern and thank you also for AccessWorld. It is a wonderful technical periodical for people who have specific needs.

Doug Hall

Daytona Beach, FL

Darren Burton responds

Thank you for your kind words about AccessWorld and for your interest in the voting issues. Regarding the Auto Mark, it was not yet on the market when we did our original evaluations, and I have not yet had the opportunity to use one. However, I just returned from a meeting with the West Virginia Secretary of State's office to discuss their HAVA responsibilities, and as it turned out, they had some demonstration units on hand, including the AutoMark system. The Auto Mark system is used in conjunction with the ES&S iVotronic DRE that we evaluated in our previous articles. It produces a "voter-verifiable" paper ballot, and it will also scan the ballot after it is printed and read back your choices to you if you are blind or visually impaired. Although our original evaluation of the ES&S iVotronic system did not specifically include dexterity issues, it was a portable touch screen unit and could be taken out to the curbside to accommodate persons who could not physically enter the voting place. For more information on cross-disability accessibility, you might want to contact the folks at the American Association for Persons with Disabilities at 202-457-0046 or you can find them online at <www.aapd-dc.org>.

As far as the paper trail controversy goes, we did not do any research into the security of these machines, but, in my personal view, I feel that the paper trail is a bit of a "sky is falling" issue. It would be much simpler to rig an election the old fashioned way by simply stuffing the old ballot box then to hack into one of these systems. The paper trail also adds another layer of complexity and opens the door to more mistakes and fraud as far as I can see. It also adds another accessibility barrier. If the paper is to be used by voters to confirm that it is what they actually voted for, then what good does it do for a blind voter? However, it looks like more and more states and counties are buying into the need for a paper trail.

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Copyright © 2005 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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