Braille ballot to assist visually impaired voters

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pretoria - Visually impaired South Africans will now have the opportunity to cast their votes secretly for the first time on a Braille ballot sheet during the General Elections next week.

Chief Electoral Officer, Advocate Pansy Tlakula, said the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had developed the Braille template to ensure that blind South Africans enjoyed similar rights as others at polling stations countrywide.

Advocate Tlakula said each polling station would be provided with one such template for the national election and another for the provincial election.

The templates were produced in Cape Town and South Africa is the second country, after Japan, to produce the model.

According to the IEC, the Braille ballot from left to right will have a number, the abbreviation of the party's name, and raised dots leading to a small window where the voter makes his or her mark.

One in every four booths will be broader with a lower voting table and each queue at the polling stations will feed into an area where such a booth is available.

Speaking to BuaNews on Wednesday, South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB) President William Rowland said the introduction of the Braille ballot was a milestone for the country's visually impaired people.

"For the first time blind people who can read Braille will have a truly secrete vote," Mr Rowland said.

Being visually impaired himself, Mr Rowland said last week he was given the opportunity to cast two mock ballots at the IEC offices which he found to be easy and effective.

In previous elections visually impaired people were able to cast their votes with the assistance of a person of their own choice over the age of 18.

However, this method will still be used during the elections as the vast majority of visually impaired people do not read Braille.