Voting with Joy Poster (Accessible Voting Technology Conference)

Voting with Joy: Student Project to Create a Smart Joystick for Accessible Voting

The University of Michigan project team presented this poster at the Accessible Voting Technology Research Conference, sponsored by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), April 1-2, 2013.

Full text of the poster follows

Voting with Joy

Text of the Poster

Voting with Joy: Student Project to Create a Smart Joystick for Accessible Voting

Design Challenge

  • Individuals with limited use of their hands have difficulties with current voting system input devices
  • 6.7 million United States citizens have difficulty grasping objects (United States Census)
  • Design a joystick to enable independent and private voting for individuals with dexterity limitations
  • Use to vote a shortened NIST Test Ballot on computer

Design Goals

  •  Accommodate a wide variety of different motor needs
  • Intuitive, universally-designed functionality
  • Haptic force feedback, enabling users to “feel” ballot
  • Local stability to prevent accidental movement
  • Convenient to use

User Feedback

  • Branden, a student with disabilities, tests the joystick and provides valuable guidance to the student team. (Shown in a photo sitting at a computer, using the prototype)

Design Concept

A photo shows the joystick prototype. It is in a box, with a large handle, made from a bright yellow golf ball. A separate button switch sits next to it.

A diagram shows a flowchart:

  • Task: Make Voting Accessible
  • Basic Functions: Control Voting Software
    • Output Joystick Selection: Utilize USB Connection
    • Prevent Undesirable Movement: Apply Force Feedback
    • Ensure Desirable Selection: Use External Button

Technical Design Details

  • Smart dual-axis joystick with force feedback control
  • Programmable feedback schemes: Auditory, haptic, visual, adjustable tension
  •  Sturdy mechanical housing
  • Easy to change ball handle
  • External select button
  • Universal mounting device (EGR 100 student teams)


  • Jim is an Intramural Sports Coordinator at Michigan State University with cerebral palsy
  • Jim uses joysticks to navigate in his wheelchair and at his computer
  • Jim pioneered many innovative joystick functions that he is delighted to share with the world to make voting easier for others like him
  • He is shown in a photo sitting at his desk. He uses a motorized wheelchair with a tablet mounted in front of him. It has a joystick control. A desktop computer sits behind him.

More information

For more information about this project, please visit the grant website.

This research was funded through a grant from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), Accessible Voting Technology Initiative (AVTI) to Michigan State University (ITIF Subgrant No. 2013004; Prime Grant No. EAC110149B – U.S. Election Assistance Commission).

Principal Investigator: Dr. Sarah J. Swierenga, Michigan State University Usability /Accessibility Research and Consulting

ECE 480 Team: Yangyi Chen, Tyler Dennis, Graham Pence, Behdad Rashidian, & Joy Yang

Research Team: Sarah J. Swierenga, Stephen R. Blosser, & Graham L. Pierce