Built By Booth: The Election Guide – Stephen Puiszis

elevator pitch: What is The Brink Election guide?

The Brink Election Guide is an iOS and Android mobile app designed to simplify the voting process for people with disabilities, and all Americans. Sadly, not everyone has equal access to voting in America and we aim to remove some of those voting barriers for people with disabilities so that they can fully exercise their constitutional rights as citizens. We provide fully-accessible, nonpartisan information and tools to help everyone better navigate our complicated American voting process. We’re supported by organizations like the ACLU, National Disability Rights Network, the World Institute on Disability, the Moore Foundation, the University of Chicago, and dozens of other partners.

What was the need that you saw in the market?

People with disabilities comprise one-sixth of the United States’ electorate and face many challenges within the voting process, including lack of accessible voter registration methods, unaccessible candidate and issue information, difficulty getting to/from polling locations, discrimination from poorly trained polling workers, inadequate access to voting machines, and more. These issues materially impact voter-turnout rates. If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as people without disabilities, there would have been 2.2 million more voters in the 2016 Presidential Election.

“Accessibility is a foundational principle of the disability rights movement. We must work to ensure that every American has access to the same information and opportunity, which is why I am so excited about the launch of Brink Election Guide”

FORMER CONGRESSMAN AND LEAD CONGRESSIONAL AUTHOR OF THE 1990 AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, TONY CUEHLO.

Why is this product so important right now?

Even with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act over 30 years ago, people with disabilities still have unequal access to the most fundamental process of our American democratic society. Because of COVID, we are more reliant on technology than ever before. And with the majority of websites, nevertheless, government websites being inaccessible to many different people with disabilities, it excludes them even more from the process. Just a week ago, The New York Times ran an article on how difficult it is for people with disabilities to vote during the pandemic and it’s even worse of a situation than we previously thought.

Who is your target User?

This app is designed primarily for Americans with a wide variety of disabilities ranging from dexterity to mobility and visual issues.

Secondarily, any American can derive value from the app. The Election Guide meets and in some ways exceeds the industry’s highest accessibility standards and is universally accessible to everyone.

The Election Guide is designed for a first-time voter. However, there is plenty of information for people that have voted before and will provide information for anyone that may encounter a plethora of problems when voting.

“Brink will absolutely help people with disabilities, but I also see all Americans benefiting from their work”

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH 

How Big IS the Team:

We have a core team of three. We are fiscally sponsored by the World Institute on Disability who is a major supporter that complements our team. We also have partnerships with a fundraising firm, web design firm, and an engineering design team as well as a handful of volunteers and interns. So in total, we’re at about 20 plus people who are making this real.

Who has been the company’s biggest supporters?

The World Institute on Disability, the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, and the National Disability Rights Network.

We also partner with 25 other non-profit organizations that are helping us raise awareness.

WHAT TYPE OF TALENT / HELP / CONNECTIONS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

To make this a long-term, financially sustainable organization we need connections to:

  • Institutional Philanthropy
  • Philanthropists
  • Designers and Developers passionate about solving civic problems and accessibility

what do you see in The Election Guide’s future?

We hope to build a lot of products in the future for people with disabilities. Everything from adaptive interfaces based on reading level to enhanced content with easy to understand diagrams and videos. We also plan on building content on how to use accessible voting machines, tools for poll worker training, and a  process to file formal complaints about discrimination or other issues that occur while voting.

How can WE support The Election Guide?

  • Download our iOS app, use it to help you vote, and give us feedback on it. 
  • Share our mission and application with any organization or anyone in your circles where our fellow Americans can benefit.
  • Consider making a donation if you have the means.  
  • Share on your social platforms!

Founders Story

STEPHEN PUISZIS

ORiginated In: Oak Park, iL

Institution: Indiana University

major: Finance

Job Before Booth: Software Engineering + Consulting

why do you care?

My younger sister has down syndrome and I have spent my life volunteering in the disability community. The disability community has often been forgotten about in America and we need to stand up for their needs and their rights.

I’m a person that’s action-oriented–when I see a problem, I want to fix it. When you hear a wheelchair user tell you how they went to go vote and found out that the accessible voting machine was placed on top of stairs and they were forced to decide whether to ask someone to carry them up the stairs or crawl to vote, you can’t help but understand we have serious inequities in our voting process. These inequities and problems need to be addressed to create a more perfect union. And, when you see an opportunity to make an impact like this at the right place at the right time you have to drop everything and do everything that you can to make that opportunity real.

Change happens at the ballot box. We have a group of people that can’t exercise their fundamental rights as citizens to advocate for change, and it’s a tragedy that we need to fix.