New York State Board of Elections and Department of Motor Vehicles Sued for Discrimination

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Eva Eason is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the New York State Board of Elections and Department of Motor Vehicles

Eva Eason, 49, is blind, which means that when she goes online, she uses software that can read text on certain web sites aloud or translate it into Braille so she can read it herself.

A year and a half ago, she needed to update her voter registration with a new address. But when she went to the Board of Elections web site, her software hit a snag when she tried to select a political party.

“For some reason the screen reader was not picking it up. It wouldn't take me to it. So I had to ask somebody,” Eason told WNYC. She also had problems when she tried the DMV site.

“You want to be independent,” said Eason, “and then this is where you get stopped.”

Now the New York State Board of Elections and Department of Motor Vehicles are facing a lawsuit over claims by Eason and others that they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The agencies are being sued over the accessibility of their websites. The complaint was filed in federal court Thursday. 

The plaintiffs also include Michelle Schoeffling, a blind voter from Albany, New York, along with the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York (CIDNY) and the National Federation of the Blind.

Together, the organizations represent more than 350,000 people with vision impairments across the state.

The plaintiffs want the court to order the state to fix the sites in time for the state legislative primary in September.

Guidelines for how to make web sites accessible to the blind have been available since 2008 from the World Wide Web Consortium, according to the complaint.

Spokesmen for the state Board of Elections and Department of Motor Vehicles said they had not been served with the complaint when WNYC requested a statement. The DMV also noted it does not comment when there is pending litigation.