I don’t need to remind anyone that we are in the home stretch for one of the most important general elections in my lifetime…and probably yours too. It will be Donald Trump and Joe Biden battling against each other to determine who will be sitting in the Oval Office for the next four years. Additionally, 35 Senate seats and all the seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs as well, making this year’s general election even more important if that is possible.
No matter who you are getting behind for the 2020 presidential campaign, please get out and vote. Contact your Board of Elections to be sure you are registered to vote well before November 3, 2020, or visit the official US government website to register to vote: https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote
At My Blind Spot, we prefer to be a part of the solution as opposed to simply pointing out problems. As a non-profit, My Blind Spot can’t be in the business of endorsing candidates. However, we are in the business of advocating for digital accessibility and usability. We also help organizations of all types and sizes come into compliance with federal regulations governing digital equity as well as the letter and spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
If you want to make an informed decision, you should pay attention to the debates, listen to the candidates speak, or go to their respective websites to better understand where they are on the issues important to you as an American citizen.
Unfortunately, if you are a person with a print disability and rely on properly coded platforms that interact with your assistive device of choice, you may be barred from doing anything at all. If you are a person with a severe visual impairment or print disability, using either of the Presidential candidates’ websites to get information on their platforms or agendas, volunteer, or make donations or buy swag will likely be a challenge.
Not too long ago, I asked my team to look at the websites for Donald Trump and Joe Biden. In terms of basic accessibility and navigation, both websites fell short of the levels of compliance required under federal law or as set forth by the WCAG 2.1 AA standards and guidelines.
According to the MBS AccessAbility Team, the violations present on Donald Trump’s Website were a significant number of vague descriptive text for links such as “Get Tickets” or “Learn More” or “Make a Donation”. Error Identification was also lacking because it only stated that a form field needs to be filled out correctly but did not explicitly prioritize each field nor did it clearly convey what information needed to be added to the field. An end-user needs to be able to confidently navigate to the form field and locate it as well as be informed about what needs to be entered into said field. There were also over 100 color contrast violations and all the pages had inconsistent heading hierarchies that make the end user experiences extremely timely and complicated to effect, if at all.
The other thing we noticed, and found disturbing and insulting, was Trump’s website does not mention or acknowledge the disability community as a recognized minority group. Interestingly, there are lots of diversity groups on his website: Woman for Trump, Latinos for Trump, Black Voices for Trump, Veterans for Trump, Evangelicals for Trump, Cops for Trump, Democrats for Trump, Pro-Life Voices for Trump, Workers for Trump, Irish Americans for Trump, Greek Voices for Trump, America’s Sheriffs for Trump, Catholics for Trump, Military Families for Trump, Moms for Trump, Asian Pacific Americans for Trump, and Lawyers for Trump. Did you notice what group was missing? “People with Disabilities for Trump”. How could a group representing nearly 20% or one-fifth of the US population be so blatantly ignored, segregated out and disenfranchised by this or any candidate for political office? If his campaign can include the 1.4 million Greek Americans, shouldn’t he include the Disability Community numbering nearly 62 million in the United States today?
Now before you start thinking this is all about bashing Trump, this is a bi-partisan bashing of any and all websites or digital offerings of both candidates regardless of party affiliation.
The MBS AccessAbility Team also took a look at Joe Biden’s Website. Our findings were that Joe’s website also failed to meet the federal regulations and WCAG 2.1 AA standards and guidelines. When first visiting the Biden website, there was an overlay present that did not have proper focus elements set in place. When relying exclusively on keyboard navigation, constituents reliant on assistive devices cannot exit areas of the website easily and an would experience difficulty placing focus onto many links including the “Continue to JoeBiden.com” link.
There was a banner at the top of the page that has a heading “Support Joe” with links next to it that have “$5 link”, “$10 link”, “$20 link”, etc., but these links did not explicitly convey information sufficient to make a donation. There were also over 100 color contrast issues found and poor alt-text on the store page—it offered only raw URL links, which do nothing but frustrate people using assistive devices and we usually just click away and reconsider making a donation at all. Other issues included problems with error identification and heading hierarchy.
Interestingly, Biden has a page on his website that is dedicated to people with disabilities. One would think that if the campaign would take the time to create such a page, the website would be fully accessible and usable to all constituents, including the very people the Accessibility Statement was created for.
Does government “of the people, by the people, for the people” exclude people with disabilities? Shouldn’t people with a disability matter? Do you know that people with a disability are at the intersectionality of all lives, including Black lives, Latino lives, women’s lives, LGBTQ lives, young lives, old lives, Christian lives, Jewish lives, Asian lives, Men’s lives, and so on and so forth. No matter your race, gender, orientation, or religion you are most likely going to join the disability club as you age into the community or join us due to an unexpected trauma or illness.
So, what should be done? Here is what will do. I drafted this letter and will send it to both campaigns with this plea/invitation:
My name is Albert Rizzi, CEO and Founder of My Blind Spot, a NYC-based internationally certified nonprofit consultancy delivering ADA, 508, ISO 40500, and WCAG inclusive Digital IT Solutions to governmental agencies, private sector corporations, educational institutions, and community-based organizations. MBS’s mission is focused on creating digital equity in the 21st century for people of ALL abilities. We intimately understand how access to the right tools promotes ability and restores infinite possibilities.
Today our lives are inextricably tied to accessing digital communications and information in our workplaces, in our schools, and in our dealings with governmental authorities. Whether on our computers or smartphones, none of us could go through the day without accessing digitized communications, programs, or platforms.
My Blind Spot is a Preferred Source Vendor across the entire state of New York, including all of New York City. We work with major corporations, governmental agencies, and community-based organizations to ensure that digital equity and inclusion are infused into the DNA of both our social and corporate cultures. We don’t just point out the problems, we actually have solutions to bring your digital assets into conformance and compliance with the law.
After a cursory review of your campaign website, we found numerous digital breaches that violate the federal regulations in place and wish to work with you and your team to correct these, one would assume, unintentional breaches and oversights. We encourage you to take swift and immediate action to correct these breaches and violations and will be reaching out to you directly to discuss how to effectively and expeditiously correct the same. We feel it is absolutely necessary to bring your website into compliance with the laws of this great nation and allow Americans of all abilities to learn more about your campaign platform and agenda.
The disability community is a broad and untapped constituency worth working with. We are 62 million strong in America and we have about 150 million friends and family that also want to see your digital assets be inclusive of their loved ones as a valued voting bloc. Let’s face it, elections have been lost by the narrowest of margins, and if we guesstimate things conservatively, having an extra 50-100 million votes in your favor to work with is not a bad idea.
To that end, and in the spirit of authentic inclusion for all people, My Blind Spot would like to offer our consultancy services to bring your digital platform and assets into compliance with the law. In order to show you how serious we are about inclusion at My Blind Spot, we can offer our nonprofit hourly rates to help you do the right thing not just for your campaign, but for the forgotten contingent of constituents that your digital offerings are unfortunately excluding.
Our interests in working with you are plain and simple. An informed constituency is the best constituency. We want people to vote with their heads and their hearts, and never blindly. We will be inviting the other campaign websites to consider working with us as well so you both will be on a level playing field when courting the disability vote. Our only concern is that people with disabilities have barrier-free access to your website so they can be informed about the necessary information to make an informed decision when casting their vote this year and in future years ahead.
Thank you in advance for your favorable and prompt response in this regard. Please know that we are anxious to meet with your team to assess your digital offerings in order to ensure they not just meet but exceed federal regulations and mandates.
I will close with something like “Looking forward to your prompt and favorable response in this regard”, and let them know they can reach me directly or, in the very least, expect a call to schedule a time to discuss our findings. When I get a response from either camp, or even if I don’t, I will let you know.
If you would like to help, please feel free to use your contacts or networks to let either candidate know that we are concerned about the accessibility and usability of their websites. In case you don’t have the information readily available, here are the contacts for each campaign:
Donald J. Trump for President
Bill Stepien (campaign manager)
Tim Murtaugh (communications director)
721 Fifth Avenue
New York City, NY 10022
Biden for President
Jen O’Malley Dillon (Campaign Manager)
Kate Bedingfield (communications director, deputy campaign manager)
Biden for President
PO Box 58174
Philadelphia, PA 19102