Accessibility Technology

Building An Accessible California Online Voter Registration Web Application

This is my second session from the second day at the CSUN conference.  This session covers “”


  • Jennifer Bretschneider, Office of the CA Secretary of State
  • Chris Maio, Office of the CA Secretary of State
  • Cheryl Pruitt, CSU
  • Mark Turner, CSU
  • Susan Cullen, CSUN
  • Aminie Elsberry, Office of the Secretary of State
  • Lucia Greco


Cheryl described some of the collaborations between a number of different California government agencies.  They leverage


Lucia Greco talked about testing of the application by testers remotely across the state.  She then demonstrated the voter registration application itself, using a laptop with a screen reader.  The form follows best practices with respect to form controls.


A user in the audience commented that his group tried testing but found the form not completely satisfactory.  Lucy indicated that they found JAWS needs to be switched to beginner verbosity mode for it to work properly.  Jenny then addressed the comment, indicating that this was the very first project where they’ve had the CSU and community testing at the same time.  The communication itself was admittedly clunky and awkward at times.

Jenny then discussed converting the paper-based voter registration process into an automated online process.  The first version of the app was built with a federal grant and had a nine-month window to get the app done.  Over one million people applied using this app.  The second version of the app (which was demonstrated by Lucy) was built in consultation with the CSU.  Chris then talked a little bit about the cross-organizational team that built the app.


  • No more CAPTCHA
  • Eliminated a screen refresh issue
  • 19 pages reduced to jest 2 pages plus review
  • Added proper structure (headings, legends, labels)
  • Added ARIA and HTML5 tags
  • Grouped questions logically, rather than adhering to the printed form order
  • Added more help content (web site help and accessibility pages, 800 number in the footer of every page)
  • Made it easier to complete the form accurately (added more drop-downs, radio buttons and checkboxes).


Launch Dates

  • Voter info guide: Launching April 6
  • Election results:  June 2
  • Redesigned SOS web site – summer launch


Sue Cullen then talked about how they applied principles of Universal Design to Web Application Development.  UDC Evaluation Categories include the following:

  • Section 508 / WCAG2.0 / Common Sense
  • Alternative Descriptions, Multimedia, Structure, Comprehensive Visual Display, User Interface, Navigation


Mark Turner then talked about testing the PDF accessibility.  Defined accessibility standards as WCAG2.0.  They met with developers prior to document development.

Project Scope:  Two dynamically-generated documents provided to end-users

  • 1-page receipt (if DMV lookup is successful)
  • 3-page receipt plus registration (if DMV lookup is unsuccessful)


Evaluation Methods/Tools

  • Automated check using Adobe Acrobat XI, PDF Accessibility Checker
  • Manual review of content tags, and metadata
  • Assistive Technology (i.e. JAWS, Read Out Loud)
  • Summary reports to developers, including findings and recommendations


Lessons Learned

  • You must use multiple testing methods.
  • AT clarified what end-user experience would be
  • PDF generation libraries can’t automate accessible authoring
  • PDF remediation steps must consider the programming tool


Question:  how do you deal with forms that are “hemmed in” by legislation?  Some things you can change, but some you can’t.  We were able to do fairly simple things like change the order of a few things.  However, some language we simply cannot change.

Question:  can you increase the font size by 200% and have it still usable?  Yes.

By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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