Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How E-Voting Makes Voting More Accessible to Disabled Citizens

Source: everystockphoto

There are many arguments as to why some form of electronic voting ("e-voting") would be an advantageous over paper ballots with manual counting. While some benefits are related to efficiency and accuracy, it is also important to guarantee inclusion, allowing voting as many people as possible. This includes people with disabilities.

Everyone Has the Right to Vote
Although certainly there are some variations across the different nations and political systems, it is generally accepted by most modern countries that everyone old enough has the right to vote. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, male or female, black or white.
But, the fact is that a manual election system is not as inclusive as some people may think, as it casts out an important demographic group. And people with disabilities have just as much a right to vote as their more able-bodied fellow citizens.

Machines for all types of disabilities
Companies such as Smartmatic have in its product portfolio equipment models (series SAES-4000/4200, SAES-3300/3700  and SAES-1800) that allow people with disabilities to exercise their right to vote in an efficient and independent way. The SAES-4000 series is a voting machine with a Braille touch screen, that’s also compliant to any height, shape and can be adjusted for people who use wheelchairs.

These equipments are designed to address limitations as low or null literacy, ocular diseases, mental illness, and motor problems, among other conditions. Voters are led throughout the voting process with built-in audio system to cast their votes independently. For this, the machines have a control that includes headphones, buttons with different shapes, colors and sizes, Braille display and a device to sip and puff for voters with mobility limitations.

Additionally, for people with limited proficiency in the official language of the country, computers can be easily enabled in multiple languages, if the electoral power of the country so requires.

The Smartmatic voting machines also come with the added advantage of being able to read ballots for multiple precincts, improving efficiency. Each polling place will only need one scanner, quite unlike previous elections where any split precinct would require more than one electronic scanner for the ballots.

Assisting Other Disabilities and Physical Challenges
Say, for example, that someone struggles with dexterity and fine movements. This person would then have difficulty holding a pencil steadily enough to mark some paper ballots. The introduction of a large touch screen once again could aid in this, as the voting "buttons" could be considerably larger. Other solutions, like audio votes, may also be appropriate.

Just as technology is used in the classroom, in the workplace, and in the home to facilitate the experiences of people with disabilities, the voting process should be no different. E-voting can help.