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How Brink built accessible software to empower disabled voters

The brief

“What we were attempting to build was a voting app oriented toward people with disabilities. If you can use it as a person with disabilities you can use it as a person without.”

Valerie Frank, Co-founder of Brink

Brink approached TXI with big dreams of building accessible software to empower voters. Founded by former “Hillary for America” campaign strategists, the Brink team wanted to guide all voters through the voting process — especially those with disabilities.

They knew from their presidential campaign experience that people with disabilities faced unique challenges in participating in the democratic process: traveling to their polling place, getting an accessible ballot, and even being denied their vote. Brink also knew that many of their challenges were universal, like registering to vote and finding the polling place.

By solving challenges for people with disabilities, Brink could solve challenges for everyone. Starting with a three-day Inception — our version of a project kickoff meeting — and moving into user research, the Brink team and TXI were able to define the most critical features, test a workable solution and launch a minimum viable product in less than four months. The resulting app makes democracy a little more accessible and provides a new framework for app accessibility.

The challenge

The Goal: Building accessible software through user research and testing

Brink’s research had found that voters with disabilities had many different needs — and that sometimes accessibility solutions were in direct opposition with one another. People with Autism, for example, may prefer detailed written information, while people with Dyslexia prefer icons and visual cues. User research allowed us to find the features that made the app easier to use for the greatest number of people.

The Tools

  • User Research
  • Accessible Design Standards
  • UX Design
  • React Native
  • Content Management System
  • Mobile Development
  • Lead with user research There are a lot of resources out there on usability and accessibility standards. We needed to sort through all the available data just to learn what we didn’t know.

  • Design with accessibility in mind Designing for accessibility means thinking through which colors fall into the same range, causing a button to look the same as its background, for example.

  • Identify the non-accessible features Setting this up in the initial development stages — especially automating scans — kept us from making obvious accessibility mistakes so we could focus on testing more sophisticated and nuanced issues.

  • Meet software accessibility standards React Native has a great set of instructions on how to make applications accessible, and it’s taken care of some of the discrepancies between iOS and Android.

  • Improve the user experience Analyzing user data helped to identify pain points and areas for improvement in the software -essential to ensuring that the software meets the evolving needs of its users.

  • Personalization Data-driven insights enabled the implementation of personalized features. By understanding user behavior and preferences, the developers tailored software experiences for individual users, providing a more engaging and relevant interaction.

The outcome

Expanding democracy through usability and accessibility testing

We test everything we build, but when trying to reach a user base with experiences we can’t always understand, it takes an elevated focus.

Finding users to test with is always a challenge. Fortunately, there are a lot of people who were interested in seeing this project be successful. The Brink team helped connect us with several organizations supporting people with disabilities, all of whom offered to test the application on their own time.

We started by putting the application through its paces using all the available accessibility testing guidelines and software we could find — plus our own tests with screen readers and other accessibility tools. Once we had it in the best state we could get it on our own, we invited in our testers. Their feedback opened our eyes to all the little ways technology can make life easier — or harder. With their help, we were able to take the application further, making it more useful for more people.

What we were attempting to build was a voting app oriented toward people with disabilities. If you can use it as a person with disabilities you can use it as a person without.

Valerie Frank, Co-founder of Brink

The results

This is just the start of building accessible software

We launched iOS and Android apps that made voting information accessible to more Americans, generating great excitement in the disability community with over 1600 users and growing, a 500% increase since 18' launch with several more major iterations in the plan before the 2024 presidential election, earning TXI the silver Anthem Award.

It’s already become so much easier to make accessible software, but it’s still not easy. There are a lot of hurdles, any of which can serve as an excuse for not doing something that a lot of people would benefit from.

We hope to help remove some of those barriers, and we also hope all of the tools mentioned here will keep pushing to improve.

We want accessible software to be the rule, not the exception. And the more we work it into our process and make it easier for everyone, the quicker that will happen.

If you have questions about how to make your software accessible contact us today!

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