Polling Accessibility

Decided to venture out to vote in the European and local election yesterday. Went with a friend but told her to go ahead of me and vote so that I had to test out the facilities put in place for blind and partially sighted people.

I have to say that I am still very unimpressed. Before I go any further I’d just like to point out that the man who helped me was very pleasant and helpful and the problems I encountered were in no way down to the staff at the polling station.

Firstly there is no Braille ballot paper, so a blind person has to have it read and remember the number for the candidate they wish to vote for. This isn’t too difficult but shouldn’t really have to happen.

Then comes the fun part. A template which just lays over the form with nothing to anchor it down. It isn’t even the full size of the paper so can’t be lined up by a blind person independently. Each number has a flap on the edge of the template which has to be folded back. These were a little stiff and the act of folding them meant that I moved the template and had to call the member of staff back to straighten up the template again.

It must have been obvious which flap I had folded back, so my vote was no longer secret.

In this day and age, I really don’t know why we can’t have online voting. As well as being accessible to blind and partially sighted people who have internet access, as well as other disabled people who can’t get out to vote, I believe that a lot of non-disabled people would be more inclined to vote if they could do it from their own home, thus increasing what is becoming a lower and lower turn-out.

About Mel Griffiths

I live and work in Nottingham, England and am blind. This blog is often centred around things that happen to me because of being blind. This is my space to write and sometimes people will disagree with what I write, but its the one place I have in which to be frank and honest. I also like to reflect on the funnier side of life from time to time.
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5 Responses to Polling Accessibility

  1. bloody hell
    then they wonder why we don’t go out and vote and they haven’t thought of accessibility for disabled people. i think it’s a shambles, hence why i didn’t bother. if they want me, they can make voting accessible, just my point of view anyways. i’m sorry you had such a bad time with it. huge hugs for you.

  2. fleurette67 says:

    Rant justified, but at least you knew who to vote for!
    Hi Mel! Your rant about the inaccessibility of voting in the elections is totally justified as far as I’m concerned. But you’re lucky to live in a country where they at least try to do something to make voting accessible, even if their efforts leave a lot to be desired. Here in France only the big cities do something towards accessible voting: a rural polling station like the one in the village where I live has the choice between voting in the traditional way (with the vote therefore not being totally secret for me), or not voting at all. I totally support your wish for online voting, in France as well as in the UK, or preferably that’s something the whole of Europe should introduce.
    I also think there should be easy online access to the European election manifestos of all the candidates, the parties or whatever, depending on the voting system for these elections in each country of course. At least you knew who to vote for, which I still don’t. I must admit I don’t listen to any debates here when it comes to elections, I don’t like to hear politicians arguing with each other, not to mention that some of them are so extreme I hate to listen to them anyway. Here in France, we normally have electoral campaign blurb delivered to our letter-boxes at the beginning of the official campaign for any election, but this time it didn’t happen. In fact, it wasn’t until today, two days before the European election vote in France, that we finally received election blurb here. You may perhaps say “try the Internet”, and yes, I did do that before we finally got the print blurb, but all I could find was names of candidates for this area and links to the websites of their political party, so looking for European election manifestos on the net in France is like searching for a needle in a very huge haystack, especially as there are eighteen candidates to choose from for this part of France. I guess I’d better finish this rant of mine now, and find out if the election blurb I’ve just been given is readable with my scanner. As a British citizen living in France, I’d like to vote in the European elections if I can, I just wish it wasn’t so frustrating finding out who to vote for, then so difficult to vote secretly on polling day.
    Sorry, this has turned into something of a novel, but you’re lucky compared to me when it comes to voting in elections, so, justified as your rant is, I thought I’d throw in mine.

    • melspooner says:

      Re: Rant justified, but at least you knew who to vote for!
      I guess mine wasn’t a fully fledged rant as I was able to cast a vote, albeit not secretly. Following my post though I have found out that the template I used had a peal off sticky place on the back which would have stuck it to the paper. I certainly didn’t spot it and the polling station staff obviously weren’t adequately trained.
      It makes me laugh where provision is made for disabled people, only in the big cities as you said. Do they think we all congregate in ghettoes in the city?
      Hope you manage to find the information you need and to cast your vote successfully.

      • ezzie_j says:

        Re: Rant justified, but at least you knew who to vote for!
        hence why I don’t live in Europe. There are too many extremist organisations for my liking. Over here we also have a system whereby we can postal vote or someone can do it for you by proxy. if you have a national organisation for the blind that you know about get in with them. You’re a good writer so there’s some room there. Sorry you didn’t find out till later Mel, I think proper training is essential. I worried that the lady waiting and reading the party numbers to me would hear my choice when I turned that stiff plastic flap over. Then there was taking the sticky off the back and turning my ballot paper over correctly so she couldn’t see it, but I failed abismally when trying to fold the darn thing. hmm.

      • fleurette67 says:

        Re: Rant justified, but at least you knew who to vote for!
        What a pity no-one told you about the sticker for that template, it would have made things a lot easier for you! At least you managed to vote in the end, as you say. Thankfully, the electoral blurb we finally received today was readable with my scanner, so I’ve been able to save the blurb from four candidates I’m likely to consider voting for into Word documents: I’ll re-read all four documents before we go to vote on Sunday, and make a final decision as to whom I’ll vote for by then. As I’ve already mentioned in my previous comment, I won’t have accessible voting, since that’s limited to big cities here. I seem to remember reading about electronic talking voting machines in Paris for the French presidential elections in 2007, so cost may well have something to do with only cities having accessible voting. But I’m also convinced that another reason for rural polling stations not bothering with accessible voting is because disabled people are expected to live in cities. Oh well, my voting conditions will be far from ideal next Sunday, but at least I’ll be able to vote, and to know who to vote for!

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