NGO calls for accessible voting for the blind
Access Israel pushes Central Elections Committee to implement 8-year-old decision to make voting more accessible.
Waiting to vote Knesset Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
Ahead of January’s election, the organization Access Israel has called on the
Central Election Committee to implement accessibility for the blind and the
visually impaired at voting polls across the country.
According to the
organization, which strives to ensure accessibility for the disabled in the
country, there are about 25,000 people holding a blindness certificate in Israel
and around another 500,000 who suffer from severe visual impairment without
Yuval Wagner, the chairman of Access Israel, explained on
Sunday that he has been trying to make voting easy and possible for the blind
and the visually impaired for about 10 years.
Eight years ago, the
organization had pushed forward the issue with the Central Elections Committee
and managed to pass a resolution where visually impaired people were allowed to
be accompanied as they went to the voting polls.
“There are issues with
this, however, because it suppresses very important things like independence,
discretion and equality. It was the best we could do at the time, but it’s not
ideal,” Wagner said.
Recently, Access Israel came across an Israeli
start-up company, Scodix, which offers a 3D printer that can print texture onto
paper, making writing easy to detect with touch.
“This in fact means that
the same pieces of paper we use to vote, which are simple white with black
writing, can be printed in a way where the writing literally stands out of the
page, or even write on that same paper in Braille, so that a blind person can
feel it,” Wagner explained.
He added that because it is Israeli, the
technology is relatively cheap compared to similar solutions encountered
Access Israel approached the Central Elections Committee in
September with the new found solution.
After a detailed presentation, the
committee wrote back, “Since our discussion, the election committee started a
process of examination of different possible solutions to the issue you have
presented. However, due to the early elections, we are afraid a solution
won’t be implemented soon enough for the upcoming ballot.”
“It’s not a
simple issue, there are a lot of things to research, we are definitely looking
into it and are also checking what solutions the rest of the world uses,” a
source within the Central Election Committee told The Jerusalem
Wagner stressed the importance of the issue, and added that the
initiative could solve the problem of vote forgery.
“We know it has
happened before in Israel and in the world that someone offered a blind person
help and ended up voting themselves,” he added. “They can’t ever know what was
on that piece of paper.”
Wagner hopes a “professional dialogue” will
start between Access Israel and the election committee that aims to implement
the solution in 2013.
“The goal is to make elections, in a democratic
state like Israel, equal and free for the blind and visually impaired as well.
If not for the Knesset elections, then soon enough for the municipal elections
that will follow,” he said.