Accessible Voting Machines for the Blind and Visually Impaired
As states begin their primary elections for determining our next presidential candidates, we must be mindful that voting is everyone’s right and that blind and visually impaired people now can do so independently. As a result of the issues experienced by some voters during the 2000 presidential election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), in October, 2002. This law ensures that all Americans, including the blind and visually impaired community, can vote privately and discreetly, no longer having to rely on poll workers, friends or family members to fill out ballots for them.
An Access World article in 2002 discussed 4 machines that were being tested for possible mainstream use as accessible voting machines. While I am not certain if any of these machines became the standard one used today, I can say with certainty that every polling place in America must make at least one accessible voting machine available according to the HAVA.
Here are some recommendations which may be especially helpful for those who either have never used an accessible voting machine or have not used one in a long time:
- Even if you go to the polling place with family or friends, tell the poll worker that you wish to use the accessible voting machine. It should, by law, be assembled and ready to use. If it is not, let the worker know that you will wait patiently for them to set it up. While this may take time, it should educate the worker and make it less likely that you will not have to have a similar experience the next time you vote. Then, once you do vote, contact your local Board of Elections and let them know that the accessible voting machine was not set up as the law requires.
- Although you do not need to be a technology expert to use the machine, ask for assistance if necessary. Once the card is inserted into the machine, you should hear speech through the provided headphones. Before the ballot is presented, a set of detailed instructions is read which can be reviewed at any time. Nevertheless, a poll worker should be able to assist you if needed.
- Expect that it may take a little more time for you to vote, especially while you are getting used to operating the machine. As you become familiar with the pattern utilized, you can more quickly move through the ballot.
- Finally, ensure that the poll worker removes your ballot from the machine and casts it. Remember—voting is a right, and having an accessible ballot is the law.