a blind persons view of voting in the general election

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, or climbing a mountain on Antarctica you’ll know we’ve just had a general election.
What you think of this is your own business, but have you ever stopped to consider how people with little or no sight vote?
Read on for my story, it’s not how everyone is affected, and I want to make that disclaimer to avoid any offence or outrageous tweets!
First, getting to the polling station.
A lovely friend of mine offered to help me find my local polling station.
After navigating a six inch step, they’d decided to put a helpful little ramp up to the building.
We then walked in to be greeted by a lovely lady who remembered me from the last few elections and asked if I’d like the Braille overlay.
This is a plastic card which fits over the ballot paper, it has braille numbers down one side and a little flap which you lift and pop your cross in.
Then she sighed and said:
“Oh no, I can’t get the Braille to fit over the ballot paper properly!”
I felt so sorry for her, as it wasn’t her fault.
But here’s where the real change needs to happen.
Luckily we only had 5 names to choose from, but on some occasions there can be up to 10 or more!
I’ve been saying for years that if the names were available in Braille, along with the parties each candidate represented, you could vote totally independently.
Nobody has listened to blind and partially sighted people, or disabled people in general.
So, you have to ask someone to read the names out and numbers while you try and remember which one you want to vote for.
We’re still being denied a basic fundamental human right, purely because people fail to make the necessary changes which would help us.
So, I marked my paper, but then my friend had to show the lady where I’d marked and ask if it was OK, which again is showing her who I voted for, which is a very personal thing.
I felt so sorry for both of them.
So, how would I change things if I could?
Firstly, there’d be an option when registering to vote where you could declare *if you wanted to* that you had sight loss, however you want to describe it.
Then, each polling station would have a selection of braille/large print ballot papers *or realistic option* with the left-hand side displaying the names/numbers of the candidates. The other side would have a line of dots, after which would be space to pop your tick/cross.
Easy right?
That’s what I’d do, but the only problem is, I’m only one person – I’m not a politician/returning officer/anybody really.
But maybe someone will read this and think:
“You know what Nicki, that’s actually a pretty good idea!”

Let me know what you think by popping comments underneath this blog or following my adventures on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

5 thoughts on “a blind persons view of voting in the general election”

  1. A valid point in Nicki’s blog. I do a postal vote, but there should be an accessible option for those who go to vote!! It’s possible, it’s simply laziness in behalf of the local authorities!!

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  2. I am also blind, and completely agree with you. The current system is not fit for purpose.
    I have personally never seen a Braille template as they have never been available at my polling station, so was unaware that they just have numbers on. That is completely ridiculous as like you said it means someone having to tell you which number corresponds to which candidate. Not secretive at all.
    Also, the current system does not take into account that not everyone can write a perfect x in the box due to a whole number of disabilities etc. I can’t handwrite; I can only just about write my initials which ends up looking more like a squiggle. So I would end up accidentally spoiling my ballot paper.

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  3. Hi Nicki,
    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    Being able to access and participate in democracy is something I believe to be fundamentally important to everyone.
    It is disheartening to read that in 2017 disabled people still cannot fully participate in the democratic process without encountering barriers such as the ones you described.
    Yesterday I was acting as an agent for one of my local parties.
    I was stood outside a polling station when I noticed a poster regarding accessible voting arrangements.
    Although the poster was displayed at eye level, it was mostly in regular size print and didn’t appear to be Braille embossed.
    And at another polling station the entrance to the actual room inside had a shallow step. A gentleman in a powered wheelchair came to cast his vote and had difficulty entering this room to be able to cast his vote.

    Small oversights like these may seem trivial to some, but they are really unnecessary.

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