Thursday, September 7, 2023

Voters with vision disabilities push for e-Voting right away

A group of voters with visually disabilities in Switzerland have been pressing the government to act swiftly in making e-voting available to them. Lamenting how the lack of digital accessibility excludes hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities, the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (SBV) said that the immediate implementation of e-voting is just the solution to make voting accessible for voters with sight challenges.

“One of the most objectionable deficits is the lack of accessibility for blind people and people with visual impairments in terms of exercising their right to vote and to be elected, as well as the protection of their voting secrecy,” said Roland Studer, SBV president.

He urged politicians and elections authorities to seize the opportunity to remedy these issues before the 2023 parliamentary elections. “The 2023 parliamentary elections must be the last elections that are not barrier-free,” he declared.

To backstop the group’s demands, Studer cited the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Switzerland in 2014, and the 2004 Disability Equality Act, which both underscore government’s duty to provide accessibility to handicapped people. Studer also emphasized the importance of extending accessibility to signature collections, advocating for electronic options. 

Voters with visual disabilities outside Switzerland face similar challenges. In the US, studies have shown that people with disabilities are less likely to vote than people without disabilities. This is likely due to several factors, including accessibility challenges, lack of transportation, and lack of information about the voting process.

Traditional voting modalities such as in-person voting and mail-in voting, can pose difficulties for people with certain disabilities. Sight-challenged voters may have difficulty reading the ballots or marking their choices while people with mobility and motor disabilities may find getting to precincts and physically filling out ballots nearly impossible tasks.

E-voting is well-poised to address these accessibility challenges. Electronic ballots can offer large print, high-contrast text, and audio output to get around sight impairment. Internet voting allows people with mobility disabilities to cast their ballots from anywhere.