University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Project Sponsor: University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Problem: People with aphasia and related language disorders face significant barriers to voting due to difficulties they may experience reading voter’s guides and ballots.

Proposed Solution: This project will develop a web-based voter’s guide that is optimized for people with aphasia.

Prior research shows that written materials can be made more accessible for people with aphasia by simplifying text and providing material in different formats (e.g., images, video, or recorded audio). However, most voting materials are not delivered in a format that is accessible to people with aphasia.

The voter’s guide developed in this project will improve the ability of people with aphasia to make informed choices and vote independently at their polling pace. It will:

  • Adapt publicly available voting guides by providing additional accessibility features such as large text and text-to-speech.
  • Allow people with aphasia, or their family, friends, or caregivers, to add personalized multimedia annotations to the voter’s guide content.
  • Allow users to fill out, annotate, and study a practice ballot prior to voting.

The interface will build on previously developed tools creating accessible user interfaces for people with aphasia. The voter’s guide will be developed through a process of participatory design with members of an aphasia center, and will be evaluated through a series of user tests with that group.

Who does it help? The primary beneficiaries of this research are the more than 1 million Americans living with aphasia. In addition, it may benefit people who experience challenges reading political content, including 11 million adults with cognitive disabilities, 40 million older adults, as well as non-native speakers.