Election 2017: Norwich man says visually impaired voters could struggle at polls

NNAB worker Edward Bates has said that some polling stations are failing to provide the necessary ai

NNAB worker Edward Bates has said that some polling stations are failing to provide the necessary aids for blind/sight impaired voters. Photo: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

As the country goes to the polls today, voters who are registered blind or visually impaired may find they have trouble casting their secret ballots.

NNAB worker Edward Bates has said that some polling stations are failing to provide the necessary ai

NNAB worker Edward Bates has said that some polling stations are failing to provide the necessary aids for blind/sight impaired voters. Photo: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Norwich man Edward Bates, 26, is registered blind and says that some polling stations do not have the necessary provisions available for these voters, which he said was illegal.

There are a number of provisions made at polling stations to ensure accessibility for visually-impaired voters.

One of those is a large print list of the candidates, which can be read aloud to voters by the presiding officer. Another method is a tactile voting device consisting of a plastic sheet which can be placed over the ballot paper. It has flaps with raised print numbers which correspond to the numbers of the candidates, and these can be lifted to allow the voter to check the correct box on the ballot slip.

There are also candidate lists provided in braille. The government website states that: 'Every polling station must provide at least one large print display version of the ballot paper and a special device so that blind and visually impaired people can vote.'

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 states that: 'It is unlawful for a public authority to discriminate against a disabled person in carrying out its functions.'

Mr Bates said that for him and many other visually-impaired voters, it was 'much easier to vote via a postal ballot', as they can be helped by a trusted family member rather than a presiding officer.

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He added that it can be 'embarrassing' to struggle with the voting process at the polling station, and said that more needed to be done to help voters with visual impairment. The NNAB works with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) to improve access to polls for visually-impaired voters.

Norwich City Council confirmed that every polling station in the district is equipped with the necessary voting devices, as well as large print ballot papers.

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