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_311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
waiting to vote Knesset_311
(photo credit: 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 being blind.
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 before.
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 Post.
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.