2022, Midterm Election Campaign Websites – Not Accessible for Disabled Voters

Kimberly Springs

Jeff Rodgers

October 09 5 min read

by Kimberly Spriggs October 9/2022

Since 2008, political digital campaign spend has been consistently on the rise. With 2022 state and local midterm elections running there are vast considerations made for physical spaces and accommodating their constituents, yet digital accommodations are severely lacking. We all know the digital landscape is the most prominent means of communicating with todays voters, but a large number of potential voters are left out – the (disability) of differently abled community.

Quick info on disabilities, they come in three main categories; the first is the 20% of our population that identifies as having a permanent disability – that is one in five (1:5) of the world’s population making them the largest minority group in the world. The second group is temporary disabilities like injuries, broken limbs, surgery, etc. The third, are situational disabilities, like holding a baby and trying to manage a mobile device or carrying groceries and using your non-dominant hand to juggle the phone. We have all been though some situational and temporary disability at some time, but the truly disabled users (and voters) are the focus here.

With a huge population at almost 20% being unable to access a political website and directly engage with their candidate ― the politician may just lose a lion’s share of a vote. If a political site lacks the accessibility requirements like missing links not working properly and directing the voter to a donation page or having a powerful differently abled donor back a campaign because they cannot access the ‘Contact Page’ through keyboard commands, this can have significant impact. Having a political campaign site and/or mobile app that accessible is critical to the candidate’s campaign.  

Notably, the disabled community is a powerful community, they are solid word of mouth, loyal, and have $21 Billion in discretionary income. That’s a voter base you want to connect with.

Website Templates Are Not Easily Accessible – Political or Otherwise

The digital backdrop for political campaigns runs off of platforms like websites and digital ad placements across web, mobile, streaming audio, and connected TV. Most of these website environments and the agencies or CMS providers behind these campaigns are not working on, nor do they understand the complexities of accessibility. The best way to start the political website or mobile app campaign asset is to make it accessible from the start with an accessibility plan built in, and accessibility professionals who know how to do it.

Using a template that does not have accessibility built in can lose voters. Almost 98% if the internet is not fully accessible, and templates that have poor coding built in and are made be fast and inexpensive to use – will be problematic down the road.

There are agencies and companies touting inexpensive, easy-to-use political templates that are usually managed through CMS providers. In order for these CMS to manage thousands of sites they use reusable “templates”. However, templates are just that—they are formulated structures designed to be quick and easy to manage or update. They look great to the non-disabled user, but if a disabled person cannot find the appropriate accessibility features or make certain actions to enable accessibility, they will get frustrated and leave.

It is important to understand the main drawbacks to the template system and restriction of design. With a template interface one cannot change code or modify the template if there are predesigned fonts and colors that do not meet WCAG 2.1 (soon WCAG 2.2) guidelines. Design restrictions in templates for text to audio for a blind user to use a screen reader, or an elderly person to zoom in on text that is a fixed size in that template, or keyboard traps, then that template is ultimately not very flexible or accessible.

For a designer or agency that does not work with accessibility in mind this can be a set-back for them too.

Technical Issues for Users

Technical problems can pop up easily on sites. But accessibility technical issues are problematic not just for those with differing abilities but even regular users.

If links are not redirecting correctly that voter will get frustrated and leave. Or, if coded descriptive text on the page that the screen-reader software needs to covert the text to an audio message, if this text is not reading out properly for user to fill out a volunteer form, they will leave. If a donation page cannot be executed by keyboard commands for someone who has Parkinson’s and they cannot easily use the mouse to navigate it, they will leave.

Having a custom, well designed can keep the political target on track. Another caveat to having an accessible website (and not a template) is that an accessible site loads faster, is more efficient, and outperforms the competition. Repeat — outperforms the competition.

Making a Political Campaign Website Accessible – for the Right Reasons

Custom websites, when built properly, can streamline user flow, establish good organization, enable a good user journey, and provide customers with the empowerment to perform the accessibility tasks needed.

Don’t forget the young, digitally inclined. With an estimated 8.3 million newly eligible young voters for the 2022 midterm elections — meaning, youth who have turned 18. An estimated 2,291,851 differently abled users 18-34, and potential differently abled voters as well, that probably won’t be reached if the candidates site is useless to a large portion of the population. Most of today’s youth are digitally engaged and well informed. Having the site reflect the population as a whole is valuable.

So, by having an Accessibility Statement, an accessible website and becoming an inclusive part of their community, the politician representing everyone in their community has a better chance of standing out, and above the rest on the campaign trail.

If you need an expert in accessibility or have questions, we are here to help.