Israeli tech to enable blind voters to cast ballot without assistance

There are approximately 24,000 Israelis registered as blind today, and about 22,000 currently have the right to vote.

By
April 3, 2019 23:55
2 minute read.
A visually-impaired OrCam user demonstrates using the technology to vote

A visually-impaired OrCam user demonstrates using the technology to vote. (photo credit: ORCAM PR)

 
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Blind and visually-impaired voters across the country will be able to cast their ballots in Tuesday’s general election without any assistance, courtesy of an Israeli-developed artificial vision device.

There are approximately 24,000 Israelis registered as blind today, of whom 22,000 have the right to vote. A further 100,000 voters are visually impaired.

Ahead of the hotly-contested vote, Jerusalem-based artificial vision device maker OrCam has partnered with the Central Elections Committee and the Center for the Blind in Israel in a pilot program seeking to enable every voter to exercise his democratic right while preserving the right to vote by secret ballot.

OrCam’s MyEye 2 device is recognized as the world’s most advanced wearable artificial vision technology for people who are blind, partially sighted, have reading difficulties or experience reading fatigue.

OrCam's MyEye 2 wearable artificial vision device (Credit: OrCam PR)
The device, mounted on any eyeglass frame, instantly and discreetly reads printed and digital text aloud, such as the paper ballots in the voting booth, and is simply activated by a pointing gesture or by following the wearer’s gaze.

The Election Committee chose to implement OrCam’s technology at the ballot box after publishing an invitation to tender and examining a range of accessibility solutions.

“This is actually the first time in the world that breakthrough technology will enable blind and visually-impaired people to exercise the right to vote independently and without being accompanied,” said OrCam co-founder, president and CEO Ziv Aviram.

“Thanks to our cooperation with the Elections Committee, we will demonstrate how our groundbreaking artificial intelligence technology empowers the lives of tens of thousands of citizens. We hope that the world will adopt the pilot that the State of Israel is leading, and will enable independence for the blind and other visually-impaired people around the world.”

The pilot program will be implemented at 12 polling stations, from Eilat in the south to Acre in the north, and in both Jewish and minority communities. Exact locations will be published on the Elections Committee’s website.

When voting begins on Tuesday, blind and visually-impaired citizens can choose to vote at the polling station where they are registered, accompanied by an individual of their choice for assistance, or they can arrive at a specially-adapted polling station participating in the pilot program and vote using the OrCam device.

Polling stations participating in the pilot will also enable voters to receive assistance from an individual of their choice instead of using the device, if necessary.

OrCam was co-founded in 2010 by Aviram and Prof. Amnon Shashua, the co-founders of autonomous driving innovator Mobileye, which was acquired by Intel Corp. in August 2017 for $15.3 billion. The company’s MyEye technology is available in 25 languages and 40 countries.

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