The choice to vote independently and confidentially is not available to blind, deafblind and those with low vision.
The RNZFB Board believes that:
- The telephone dictation voting trial that enabled blind, deafblind and those with low vision to participate in the 2014 general election should be available also for Local Government elections and referenda.
- Electronic voting in general elections, local government elections and referenda should be available in time for the general election in 2020.
In March 2008, the New Zealand Government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 29 of the convention states, in part, that: “Parties will ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected.” This is to be accomplished by, among other things, “ensuring that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use” and by “protecting the right of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot in elections and public referendums without intimidation.” (See Note 1.)
Blind, deafblind and those with low vision do not have the choice to vote independently and confidentially. They must rely on third parties to mark their ballot. Polling stations are not accessible; officials lack awareness of how to accommodate them. The information about candidates and the policies of their political parties are not available in accessible formats.
What Blind Low Vision NZ Will Do:
- Monitor international best practice on accessible election standards and be a conduit for innovation in services for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision.
- Advise political parties and candidates on best practice on access to published information.
- Increase public awareness of how making the democratic process accessible for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision benefits everyone.
What Blind Low Vision NZ Wants Government, Political Parties and Candidates to Do:
- Extend the telephone dictation voting to include local government elections and referendums.
- Continue to develop accessible electronic voting options.
- Mandate that audio-description be included in all party political and public service announcements where videos or TV information are used to convey information in a non-verbal way.