On 6th May 2010 I wrote this article:
In it I described how I probably spoilt my ballot paper because the presiding officers didn’t know how to use the so called accessible template for blind voters. I also described how this template is supposed to work. I also said that I would campaign to change the system, but for various reasons I didn’t do this. I hope this time to be more organised and more focused and do all I can. Therefore, if anyone is reading this article who has ideas for a successful campaign, I’d love to hear from you. I have no experience in campaigning and I know there are people out there who are very successful.
My husband and I who are both blind have voted today but the process wasn’t private or independent. Firstly we arrived at the polling station we have voted at for the last 9 years, only to find that we had to go to a different one this year. The polling cards weren’t available in any medium except print and we didn’t see any information about changes to boundaries published anywhere. Our new polling station was about half a mile away. We eventually found it and handed in our polling cards. My husband was taken to a booth first by the presiding officer who would be assisting him. The polling station was so small that there was nowhere for me to wait for my turn without being in the way of other voters.
When it was my turn I discovered that the so called accessible template was not fit for purpose. We had two ballot papers and the flaps on the template didn’t line up with the boxes on either paper. This meant that it couldn’t be used.
I agreed to allow the presiding officer to fill in my ballot forms for me as I couldn’t see a way around voting independently. This meant that I forfeited my statutory right to a secret vote.
I would like to say here that the presiding officer was a lovely person, very helpful and efficient, and she agreed to feed back the problems we had to the council.
This however is not the point. The template for blind voters is archaic. It relies on a sighted person to help the blind voter, even though it is deemed accessible by RNIB and other organisations who are supposed to represent us.
I live in a democracy where every citizen is entitled to a secret vote. Every citizen that is, apart from the millions of blind and partially sighted ones who have to accept a very poor second best. Seven out of ten blind voters did not vote last year because of difficulties with the voting system.
I DEMAND the right to a secret and accessible vote which most people take for granted.