Accessibility

Don’t Let Low Vision Prevent You From Getting Out There To Vote!

It’s an election year and the big day is quickly approaching. With so much going on in our world and country, this election is proving to be more important than ever. However, it can feel a tad intimidating to get out there to vote right now. I mean, we are currently in the throws of a pandemic and many of us here have the added obstacle of vision impairment.

Don’t let the unknown scare you away! We have options that I hope to help you better understand with this article.

Accessible voting machines

If you prefer to vote in person, there will be an accessible voting machine available to you. Accessible voting machines are electronic tools that allow users with varying disabilities to vote using assistive technology. They’re devices that are available specifically to assist people who are unable to mark a traditional ballot by themselves due to any disability.

The great news is that all polling stations are supposed to have these accessible voting machines available to voting citizens. So, you don’t need to worry about traveling to any specific polling location to find one.

Alternative names for assistive voting machines

Though you should be able to ask for an assistive voting machine in general, there are a few other names for these devices: ADA voting machines, electronic voting machines, voting machines for the blind/disabled, or large print ballot machines. Ask for any of these assistive devices at your local polling spot, and one should be readily available to you.

Additional assistance for voting

If you’re still uncomfortable with using an assistive voting device, that’s more than okay! You can also request human assistance for placing your ballot. Some of us are more private than others when it comes to casting our vote, especially when political tensions are so high, but if you’re not one that prefers to vote privately, there is human assistance at your polling station for you as well.

Helpful hint: some assistive voting devices have a spot for you to hook up a set of headphones directly into the machine. You may want to bring them along with you just in case.

Tips for voting in person

It’s important to note that these accessible voting machines are not always visible to voters when they walk through the door. You may have to ask for one, but don’t let that deter you from voicing your ever-important opinion and casting your ballot. Remember... though we each know what our visual limitations are, it may not always be noticeable to those working the polls.

Sometimes we have to be vulnerable and ask for help. I’d also like to throw it out there that many of the people working the polling stations are volunteers trying to be involved and do their part. They may not know how to approach a citizen who is visually impaired to offer an accessible voting machine. Volunteers may also not want to assume a disability.

What to expect

Visual accessibility machines include instructions for use. If you can’t find these instructions or are unable to read them, feel free to ask for help in getting started. These machines are touch screen (so bring your hand sanitizer or stylus!) and have options like high contrast settings where you can choose whether to have a light background with dark font or a dark background with lighter font. You can also zoom in to increase your font size on these machines.

Laws to remember

Many of us with low vision are in the habit of using our smartphones to assist us in magnifying anything in print so we can read it. It’s important to remember that using a phone as a magnifying aid at a polling station is illegal.

Don’t forget to bring a form of government identification with you to your polling station. You may also need to bring proof of disability with you in order to use the assistive devices. It may help to call ahead to be sure you have everything you need. It’s really frustrating to have to turn around, go home, and get back in line to vote.

Editor's Note: Laws differ by state, if you are polling in-person check your state's laws before going. It's also important to bring a mask as many polling locations require individuals to wear masks when inside.

Voting with an absentee ballot

Some of us feel more comfortable casting our vote in the comfort of our own homes. Though the pandemic is making it much easier for anyone to vote by absentee ballot, those with disabilities always have the right to vote this way. Doing this does require some preparation to be sure you get your ballot in the mail, completed, and sent back in on time.

Don’t let your low vision prevent you from speaking your voice in this year’s election!
Andrea Junge

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