The longstanding partnership between RCPD and the College of Engineering has yielded many innovative and accessible technologies that have helped countless persons with disabilities.
This past semester, a team of engineering students completing a capstone project for their ECE 480 class worked closely with RCPD to continue developing a joint venture that will make voting more user-friendly through the use of a “smart voting joystick for accessible voting machines.”
Funded by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), this project began in response to research showing how individuals with disabilities are less likely to vote compared to persons without disabilities, in part because of problems with the accessibility of electronic voting machines.
Individuals with mobility disabilities may lack adequate dexterity or control to use a touch screen, which can force them to scan through voting selections by pressing buttons hundreds of times, leading to frustration and fatigue in what should be an accessible and straightforward process.
The creation of this double axis joystick device will allow individuals with mobility disabilities and dexterity impairments to vote independently without discomfort and within a reasonable amount of time.
As stated on the MSU Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting (UARC) page, the team’s plan was to “develop a joystick device that will plug into the interface port on existing voting machines and reduce the effort required to scan through the voting process.” The programmable smart voting joystick will have adjustable tension specified for each user so that they can receive auditory, visual, and haptic feedback.
The ECE 480 team and Brendan, who is testing the smart voting joystick
The ECE 480 team presented their project at the spring 2013 Engineering Design Day, an annual engineering “open house” in which hundreds of students presented their projects to peers, professors, sponsors, and community members. The project was extremely well received by all who attended.
In a separate sub-project, EGR100 students will work with RCPD and a team of professors to create universal mounting devices for the adjustable joystick. This will allow voting precinct staff to easily and quickly position the joystick on certain parts of an individuals’ wheelchair in order to vote.
The overall Voting Accessibility project has followed a detailed methodology and timeline, which has yielded some exciting results that will sustain this important work. At the end of this past spring semester, the project received a $25,000 grant from ITIF, funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to prototype the accessible joystick.
RCPD and the team will continue to work on this project throughout the summer and are thrilled by the possibility that the grant may expand. This would allow for the accessible voting machine to improve the process and blaze the trail for more accessible voting around the country for all.
RCPD Assistive Technology Specialist and leader of the project, Stephen Blosser, states, "our team of participants at the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities are delighted to make a contribution to improving the independent voting experience for Americans with disabilities. We also see this as an opportunity to disseminate our experiential knowledge of how to make user interfaces universally accessible.
"This is more than voting, it is demonstrating that innovation holds the keys to independence”
For a full list of Engineering Design Day 2013 projects check out the program here. To see other RCPD Engineering collaborative projects, visit the RCPD Engineering Design Day page!