Equitable access to vote on equality?


Accommodating for the vision impaired in the democratic process. Photo: Thomas Leuthard

A paperless vote option has been announced for blind or vision impaired people who want to vote in the upcoming postal survey on same-sex marriage.

The Australia Bureau of Statistics announced the new option last week, as it was  feared blind or vision impaired people were being excluded from taking part in the same-sex marriage debate.

Vision Australia, the leading national support body for the blind or vision impaired, said the organisation has been working with the Australian Bureau of Statistics to ensure  equal opportunity for all to participate in the survey vote.

General Manager of Advocacy and Engagement for Vision Australia, Karen Knight, said while the final details on how the process will work are yet to be announced, the latest development will allow for greater inclusion in the ballot.

“There would have been many people who are blind or have low vision who would have been excluded from this democratic process if the ABS didn’t take these steps,” Ms Knight said.

“For people who are blind or have low vision, a postal vote would be extremely difficult. Many people wouldn’t even know that they’ve received it let alone be able to complete it.”

For those who are blind or vision impaired, relying on assistance to secure an independent and private vote has posed a problem for many years with submissions being made to the Committee on Electoral Matters for last 13 years.

Speaking about Vision Australia’s goal to make the voting system accessible to all, Ms Knight highlighted the issues of having to disclose the nature of one’s vote to another person on the basis of assistance.

“They would have had to ask a family friend or someone else to do it for them, and in that case you can’t be certain that they follow your wishes,” Ms Knight said.

Marnie Cruickshank

A Griffith University student graduating from a Bachelor of Communications, with a major in PR and minor in journalism, in February 2018.

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