The electoral process is still held in high regard by most of society. The right to participate in the democratic process has been hard fought by many groups. It continues to be fought in countries such as Zimbabwe. Some Canadians take for granted the opportunity to participate FULLY in the democratic voting process. This includes seeking nomination as a candidate, participating in candidate meetings, informing oneself about the party platforms, voting in secret, and being able to independently verify how one voted. My parents instilled in me a healthy sense of responsibility about my ‘duty’ to vote. I have done so, at all levels of government, since I reached the age of majority. I have voted by proxy when I was out of the country. I have struggled to the polls on crutches. There are three components that are essential to voting:
- Secrecy: privacy
- Independent: without assistance from another person to choose and mark your choice.
- Verification: being able to check how you voted after you have marked it.
Voting has become more accessible for people who are disabled, however, it remains unacceptably inaccessible for most people who are blind, deaf-blind, or partially sighted. Most often, a template is offered, but this offers no means of verification. Blind people usually must depend on voting with another person to set up the template etc.. Braille ballots are sometimes available, but Braille is not used by over 80% of adult people who are blind. Some jurisdictions are attempting alternative means of voting for the blind. These include using on-site computers with audio, tactile, sip and puff interfaces which make it possible for people who are blind or quadriplegic to vote independently. Electronic (Internet) voting is also being tried (Halifax’s next municipal election will allow people to vote over the Net or with a cell phone and a pin number which they will receive in the mail). Intelivote Systems of Dartmouth NS is working to convince cities in Canada that electronic voting will increase voting stats, particularly with younger voters. It also has environmental appeal. Me? I prefer the on-site buzz at the polls. BUT, I want to see the next provincial election here, to be fully accessible to me and others who have vision loss. I want the candidates to provide me and others who are partially sighted with their platform and ‘pitch’ in alternate formats. I want to go to the polls and be given an accessible list of candidates names on the ballot (in Braille, audio electronic or large print) and I want to vote ALONE, and to CHECK MY CHOICE on my ballot MYSELF before I put it in the box. Tomorrow, I meet with my MLA, Graham Steele and a representative from the Elections Nova Scotia. Hmm.