Blind voters struggle to cast ballots in secret

Tactile voting device (1)

Concerns: A tactile voting device.

RNIB Scotland calls for voting reforms as it launches its manifesto.

27th November 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Blind and partially sighted voters still struggle to cast their ballot papers in secret, according to a leading sight loss charity.

RNIB Scotland said current voting aids for people with vision issues still require the assistance of a sighted person and urged politicians from all parties to explore alternatives.

The call came as the charity launched its manifesto for the election on 12 December.

RNIB Scotland director James Adams said: "Last May, the High Court of Justice ruled that present provisions for voters with sight loss were 'a parody of the election process' because they fail to allow them to vote independently and in secret.

"The two voting aids currently available - a large-print ballot paper or a tactile voting device, a plastic template that fits over the ballot paper - can still mean people need a sighted person to guide them where to put their cross. Eight in ten people surveyed by RNIB who used a tactile voting device said that they voted with another person.

"It's simply not acceptable that people can leave their polling station unsure whether they've correctly voted for the candidate of their choice, or feel obliged to ask someone else for help. We want the next Parliament to urgently explore alternatives such as secure digital options."

In its manifesto, the charity is also urging Scottish MPs to help ensure that eligibility for welfare benefits is better attuned to the needs of blind and partially sighted people. The manifesto also calls for planning regulations to recognise the problems that urban design features such as shared spaces pose for people with disabilities and for greater to be given on fighting preventable sight loss.

"Whether these issues relate to reserved or devolved powers, they affect people with sight loss everywhere. Scottish MPs can add a strong voice for change both in Scotland and across the UK," said Mr Adams.

"Our manifesto is also inviting those prospective parliamentary candidates elected to become RNIB Champions in Parliament."