Guest Author - Dean Ingalls
Privacy and the ability to vote independently are the main issues when voting as a visually impaired/blind person. Every person who considers voting a privilege and civic duty is entitled to complete the voting process independently and in a private manner.
I understand that the easiest way for a visually impaired or blind person to vote is to have sighted assistance. The problem for me is I consider voting a private and serious issue. I take the time to listen to candidates and read about issues that directly affect my life. Therefore, I do not want the pressure coming from others who may not understand what life is like for a disabled person to vote for that person’s candidate. I vote for a candidate because I believe the person I vote for has my interest as a priority. I am listed as a Democrat but through the years changes in my life have helped developed my process of voting. I no longer place the same value on a specific political party. Party affiliation is not the only reason I vote for a candidate. I study the issue appearing on the ballot and make the decision from the information I obtain about the candidate or specific law, regulation, office or local situation on the voting ballot.
During my years of voting as a visually impaired/blind person I have used both sighted help and non-visual voting access technology. The problem with using voting technology is most of the time the technology is out of date or the precinct judges do not have knowledge setting up or operating the technology causing the voting process to take a longer time. I understand the difficulty of trying to provide assistive technology at every voting location but believe with some pre-election day organization every voting location can have a procedure that offers a visually impaired person the opportunity to vote independently and privately.
My most recent voting experience began with the voting judge‘s inability to turn on the voting technology. After locating the directions, the voting judge discovered the technology required a key in order to turn on the power to the computer. Next, the judge struggled with placing the voting ballot into the proper position for loading into the assistive technology. After about a fifteen-minute delay I was finally ready to start the process of reading and marking the ballot. Once, the machine was turn on and the ballot loaded the voting procedure was very easy. The technology provided specific and easy to understand directions for completing and marking the voting ballot. The keys on the operational keyboard were marked with Braille letters and easy to read. I completed the voting ballot within ten minutes and fulfilled my civic duty without any further problems. I left the voting precinct feeling good about myself and proud I was capable of voting in an independent and private manner.
The “Help America Vote” Act implemented in 2002 requires every state to provide non-visual voting access technology for individuals who are visually impaired or blind. Laws like the Help America Vote Act offer a person dealing with a disability the opportunity to participate in governmental processes with pride and dignity. I understand the importance of supporting visual organizations that represent the visually disabled because the organizations help develop and implement laws such as the Help America Vote Act. Take the time to learn what organizations support the issues you believe are important and help those organizations. Changes only happen when enough people speak up and demand change. Let’s all do our part and get involved.