Christopher Danielsen, the editor of NFB’s The Voice of the Nation’s Blind, describes his experience casting a ballot on a Sequoia AVC Advantage (a full-face button-matrix DRE) with a braile template and instructions (“On My Voting Experience and The Nature Of Accessibility”). In addition to highlighting how difficult it is to vote with tactile templates, it provides some stark illustrations of human factors issues such as environmental conditions and voter fatigue (which can be particularly heightened with the lengthy process of reading braille… not to mention that braille literacy rates have been dropping):
The ability of a blind person to vote privately and independently does not consist merely of being able to identify which button to press, or which oval to mark, or which hole to punch in order to make a candidate selection. Sighted voters receive confirmation that their vote has been cast, and on newer equipment they are told whether they have over-voted or under-voted a race and so forth. Blind people should receive responses from the voting terminal which tell us what we have accomplished. Similarly, we should be able to navigate through contests and ballot questions at our own pace, and we should be able to review our ballot before casting it as sighted voters can. A static template can’t replace this interactive voting experience, whether that template is laid over a punch card or optically scanned ballot or a touch-screen machine. We must have response from the machine to indicate that the voting machine is accurately recording our choices and that our ballot is cast as we intended. Otherwise, we will be left only with the option of having a poll worker or a person of our choice review the ballot with us to make sure our votes are cast as we intend. While blind voters should certainly be permitted to retain the option of using assistance from another individual of our choice if we so desire, the chance to have a completely private and secret voting experience must not be denied to any blind voter. It is available to every sighted voter, and thus true equality for the blind will not be achieved in voting unless it is also available to us.
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