Vision-impaired get chance to vote

Gregory Madson reckons Vote Assist is easy to use. Picture: Martin Kennealey d396299
Gregory Madson reckons Vote Assist is easy to use. Picture: Martin Kennealey d396299

The Association for the Blind in Victoria Park is hosting new technology, developed by the Western Australian Electoral Commission, which gives vision impaired people the same access to secret voting as that of sighted people.

The technology is called Vote Assist and allows blind voters to use audio prompts and a keypad to vote independently.

Association special projects manager David Vosnacos likened the new technology to creating a level playing field, with equal access to the voting process.

Last week, guide dog user Gregory Madson was one of the first to experience the benefits of the system, after early voting opened on February 20.

‘It’s quite easy (to use) and good to have the option and to be able to maintain your independence,’ he said.

WAEC took 18 months to develop Vote Assist, which was prompted by concerns about access rights to secret ballots during the 2008 State election.

Another option had been publishing ballot papers and instructions in Braille but this was too bulky.

‘We now have all the names transferred into audio files, thanks to technology,’ Mr Vosnacos said.

‘The blind have an independent voice, now they can vote by themselves.’

Vote Assist is available at the association at 61 Kitchener Avenue and WAEC headquarters at 111 Saint Georges Terrace, up to and including Election Day on March 9. It will later also be available at the Greendale Centre in Armadale, the Royal Air Force Association Estate in Mandurah and at Mirrabooka SHS.