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Presidential Candidates’ Website Accessibility Improves but More Work Still Needed

Four Candidates – Biden, Booker, Castro and Yang – Have “Mostly Accessible” Websites

Washington, D.C., Dec. 19 – Nearly six months after a report by the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired found that all of the presidential candidates’ websites block democratic access to voters who are blind or have low vision, an update finds that still none of these websites – Democrat or Republican – are fully accessible. However, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind found that many of the candidates’ websites do show improvements in accessibility.

The organization issued a challenge for the candidates in June: “ensure their websites are fully ADA compliant and immediately put an accessibility statement on their page.” Since then, both Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Vice President Joe Biden’s have been deemed “mostly accessible” and are the only candidates who have qualified for the December debate to have scored higher than a 3.00 out of 4.00. 

“Since we launched the ADA Compliance Meter in June, we have seen some progress, but there is still a long way to go,” said Virginia Jacko, President and CEO of the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind. “We will continue to raise awareness of this issue and will not rest until we are sure that each blind and visually impaired voter has equal access to all candidates’ websites.”

RespectAbility, a nonprofit that runs www.VoteAbility.com, a publication on the intersection of politics and disability, has reached out to all of the campaigns about all aspects of accessibility – from websites to social media to live events. Each campaign was offered free training in how to make their campaigns accessible to people with a variety of disabilities. Ten of the campaigns so far took RespectAbility up on the offer of training.

According to the Census Bureau, more than 56 million Americans live with some form of disability. This can include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss to people living with nonvisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.

Furthermore, specific to the website study, according to the CDC, more than 12 million Americans 40 years and over have vision impairment, including one million who are blind – meaning that ensuring website accessibility should be a priority for all presidential candidates. 

A Closer Look at the Candidates’ Websites

While Yang’s website is the most accessible of all the candidates, having increased his score of 2.67 (out of 4.00) in June to 3.56 in August, his campaign has not made any additional improvements since then. 

Biden’s campaign has made incremental improvements since June, from 3.00 to 3.50 in December. Since the most recent update in late November, the Miami Lighthouse team saw improvement his, as well as Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s video player button controls, reporting that these controls now are “fully accessible for the blind and visually impaired voter.” 

In addition, President Donald Trump recently made a few advancements, increasing his score from 2.67 to 2.89: “When looking at the ease of page navigation, his score went from somewhat to fully accessible. Simultaneously, the logo and link to alternative text went from mostly to fully accessible.”

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren made three updates to her website, including improving the ease of page navigation from mostly to fully accessible and updating the video player button control from not to somewhat accessible. Warren’s accessibility statement now is fully accessible. However, the accessibility of her website is the lowest (2.40) in comparison to the other candidates who qualified for the December debate. 

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (2.78) and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (2.50) have not made any changes since their last scorecard update in November but each made improvements between August and November. 

Businessman Tom Steyer received his first score this round, at 2.60. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s website has not been examined by Miami Lighthouse, but learn more about his accessibility initiatives on The RespectAbility Report.

A total of five candidates now have an accessibility statement on their websites: Joe BidenMichael BloombergCory BookerElizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. All of the candidates with the exception of Bloomberg include both a live email address and phone number that users can contact for additional assistance in their accessibility statements. 

Individual Presidential Candidate Scores as of December 16, 2019

View methodology on the Miami Lighthouse’s website: www.miamilighthouse.org.

Candidate12/16/19 Score11/26/19 Score8/30/19 Score6/26/19 ScoreTotal Improvement
Andrew Yang (D)3.563.563.562.670.89
Joe Biden (D)3.503.403.403.000.50
Donald J. Trump (R)2.892.672.672.670.22
Bernie Sanders (D)2.782.782.112.110.67
Pete Buttigieg (D)2.602.502.202.110.49
Tom Steyer (D)2.60n/an/an/an/a
Amy Klobuchar (D)2.502.502.102.250.25
Elizabeth Warren (D)2.402.302.302.000.40

While new data was not available for some of the candidates, below find data from August and June for several of the other candidates. 

Candidate8/30/19 Score6/26/19 ScoreImprovement
Cory Booker (D)3.112.890.22
Julian Castro (D)3.002.880.13
Bill Weld (R)2.782.670.11
Joe Walsh (R)2.44n/an/a

Miami Lighthouse Scale

  • 1: website was not accessible 
  • 2: website was somewhat accessible
  • 3: website was mostly accessible
  • 4: website was totally accessible

Will Candidates Talk About Disability Issues at Tonight’s Debate?

While it is almost certain that at least some of the candidates will refer viewers to their website during tonight’s debate, what is unknown is if any of the candidates will address the one-in-four adults in the U.S. who have a disability from the debate stage. 

“It is vital for the democratic process to be open to all people and all means all – including people with disabilities,” said Lauren Appelbaum, managing editor of The RespectAbility Report. “Ensuring accessibility and having meaningful disability policies are just two of the important issues candidates need to address.”

The word “disability” was not mentioned during the first few presidential primary debates. In the most recent debate, Sen. Warren talked about accessible housing for people with disabilities. All policy plans – including those focused on education, employment, the environment and others – affect people with disabilities. Yet, the candidates have yet to meaningfully discuss most of this from the debate stage thus far. 

“More than half of Americans with disabilities have reached out to their elected officials or attended a political rally in the recent past versus 39 percent of Americans without a disability or any disability connection,” said former U.S. Representative and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett, citing a recent poll. Bartlett, who was a primary author of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, is the board chair of RespectAbility.

Two separate bipartisan polls following the last presidential election showed that voters with disabilities and their family and friends voted slightly more for President Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. 

Fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member, or a close friend with disabilities. Therefore, as the 2020 candidates take to the debate stage, it is in the best interest of every presidential candidate and the citizens of this country for candidates to recognize disability issues at this time. 

“Candidates for office ignore the disability community at their peril,” added Bartlett. “People with disabilities are politically active swing voters, and candidates should take note of the important issues they care about.”

About RespectAbility: A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, RespectAbility fights stigmas and advances opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. RespectAbility does not rate or endorse candidates. It publishes www.VoteAbility.com, nonpartisan political commentary on U.S. elections with a focus on disability issues. View more coverage of 2020 presidential candidates.

About the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Since 1931, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an independent organization, has been Florida’s premier rehabilitation organization serving the blind. The mission of the Miami Lighthouse is to provide vision rehabilitation and eye health services that promote education and independence, to collaborate with and train professionals and to conduct research in related fields. Miami Lighthouse serves over 22,000 blind and visually impaired people of all ages each year.

Published in2020 CampaignAmy KlobucharAndrew YangBernie SandersCory BookerDemocratsDonald TrumpElizabeth WarrenJoe BidenJulian CastroPete ButtigiegRepublicansTom Steyer

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