When technology can make a difference
Some themes very relevant to election campaigns will not be brought into the debate just because it is - election campaign. The media space is so full of opinions that general democracy issues tend to disappear. But the lack of accessibility when it comes to voting is an important democratic question that we mustn’t forget.
Susanna LaurinTitle: Chief Research and Innovation Officer
Polling places that don’t work for people with physical disabilities. Ballot papers that don’t work for people with reading difficulties. Individual candidate voting that doesn’t work for the visually impaired. With a good digital electoral system, most of these problems could be eliminated, creating greater independence and higher level of inclusion.
Is the glass half empty or half full?
In Estonia, which is usually said to lead the e-election development, the security issues have been in focus. In Norway, where they’ve tried e-elections on a smaller scale at several levels, the government considers the problems too severe and has therefore come to the conclusion not to introduce the system. In Sweden we’ve investigated the matter without performing any practical tests. Technical difficulties, particularly when it comes to security tend to be the main argument against e-voting. The sceptics also fear that individuals more easily could be influenced or deceived. Another argument against e-voting occurring in the debate is that citizens would not trust or understand the system.
Of course there are problems. IT systems have a tendency to be buggy (or is it just me?), and we’ve probably all experienced how vulnerable important societal services are when some cable has been cut by mistake. At the same time, today’s analogue voting system hardly can be called perfect?
Every election period some ballots are misplaced or wrongly counted. There are reports of people missing from the electoral rolls. Eager party functionaries help out with the voting in nursing homes without fully ensuring the voluntariness. The ballot secrecy is revealed at several places because of carelessness or ignorance. People who want to change their early vote can visit numerous different polling places without meeting a functionary that actually knows how to help.
Still, we consider elections in our part of the world to be democratic and well executed. Although many people with disabilities can’t participate. For me, this doesn’t make sense.
Can we trust the systems?
Without pretending that I understand the safety issues in detail, I imagine that the risks of e-elections must be possible to get around. If we can handle our bank errands, send in our tax declarations and order medication online, we must also be able to vote via the web, right? Or, at least vote digitally in designated venues. The benefits for people with disabilities would be huge, and that argument should weigh heavily in the debate.
Funka has audited e-election systems from an accessibility point of view for several years. A lot has happened in that time and the opportunities to make something really good is not far away. I hope that visionary politicians who care about democracy look into solving the problems, and thereby taking a big leap towards increased accessibility in voting. It’s time to live up to the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities speech regarding the right to participate in democratic processes.
Related chronicles by Susanna Laurin
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Funka's CEO Susanna Laurin reports from a debate in the European Parliament and international standardization that deals with the inclusion of elderly in IT development.
29 November 2018
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14 August 2018
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29 May 2018
Funka's Susanna Laurin sees similarities between working with accessibility and taking care of a wooden boat. Both activities require patience and the results can make many people happy.
5 December 2017
The International Day of Disabled Persons keeps us busy in all our markets. This year we contribute to the Inclusion Days program in Berlin, Germany.
8 November 2017
A judicial precedent now allows for a tighter interpretation of the Swedish law on support and services for certain disabled people. This may mean that many people lose their right to personal assistance. Do we really want people to be denied a worthy life on equal terms with others?
12 June 2017
As the sun glistens in the ocean, the birds wake me up in the early mornings and life gets a little easier once sunshine and warm weather turn our latitudes into paradise, a report on digitization makes me even more happy.
6 March 2017
We are always interested in what is going on in our market. When two conferences on accessibility, gaming and assistive technology happens in the same week, the agenda is filling up.
7 February 2017
Funka’s Susanna Laurin reports from an EU conference on accessibility and legislation in Brussels. The focus is, as usual, on the economy.
6 January 2017
Two of our very competent consultants have tried their wings with our clients and then chosen to come back to Funka. Naturally, we're very excited and we've asked Oskar and Karin to tell us a little bit about their experiences.
8 December 2016
Funka’s Susanna Laurin ponders what we celebrate on the international day of persons with disabilities. Accessibility seems - more than ever - a moving target.
4 July 2016
Funka’s Susanna Laurin is reporting on an exciting meeting of experts from all over the world, at the US Access Board in Washington.
17 June 2016
The French association for the visually impaired, BrailleNet, arrange an annual conference on digital accessibility. The theme for the 2016 edition was the internet of things. Funka’s own Susanna Laurin is reporting from the conference.
10 March 2016
An unsettling trend is happening in the U.S.: by using legislation as a battering ram lawyers are making money, but inaccessibility persist.
30 November 2015
Susanna Laurin's reflections on the situation for people with disabilities face in the world today.
11 September 2015
Funka’s CEO Susanna Laurin reflects on cultural differences between Spain and Sweden, personal integrity and how badly things can get, even when you try your hardest to do the right thing.
18 June 2015
Funka’s Susanna Laurin considers trends in accessibility and the fact that we no longer have much time to reflect.
29 October 2014
Funka’s Susanna Laurin questions why accessibility and user experience experts are so eager to talk to people with similar opinions. Would it not be better to let different views and opinions meet to bring about change?
19 June 2014
We look back at a hectic period and look forward to even more work. But first of all, we will enjoy the summer holidays.
25 February 2014
Funka’s Susanna Laurin rejoices in the fact that design for all really works in our everyday life.
20 December 2013
Susanna Laurin, Funka, sums up a busy year. A year of continued growth, continued expansion in Norway and a new office in Madrid.
25 October 2013
It is leaning towards legislation on web accessibility in the EU. Funka's Susanna Laurin takes a closer look at what the guidelines that almost everyone is pointing towards actually entail for the users.