Veronica With Four Eyes

How Do People With Vision Impairments… Vote?

For the 2016 election, I voted prior to Election Day by absentee, traveling to a polling place in my hometown to cast my vote in what was a very important election. My first voting experience is something I will never forget for two reasons- the power was out because of a massive storm that had torn through town a few days earlier, and I found out polling places in Virginia aren’t as accessible as I thought. Here are some of the things that surprised me about voting, and my tips for voting in elections.

There may be no large print or Braille

While there is Braille on drive-up ATMs, there is not Braille or large print on voting ballots in my home state of Virginia. This was a huge surprise to my mom and I, as we assumed that it would be available, especially since we had documented my disability on the voting form. Which leads to what happened next…

Have someone there to assist you

My mom had to sign off on about three different forms to help me cast my vote in the election. This was allowed, as I did not have the ability to read or write on the standard ballot.

Request assistance

There is a check box on the voting form that allows a person to request assistance at the polling location from a staff member. State government organizations like the Department of Blind and Visually Impaired have more resources on this.

Absentee ballots

Most states allow people with disabilities or special accommodations to vote by absentee. In Virginia, having a disability qualifies someone for being able to receive a ballot, but there is no guarantee it will be in an accessible format.

My absentee ballot

For the 2017 election, I received my ballot long before the deadline, but found that the print size on the ballot was difficult to read. I used a video magnifier that didn’t store images to magnify it and filled it out that way.

Related links

Research laws ahead of time

Descriptions of proposed state laws are frequently included on ballots. Not only are the descriptions long, but the wording can be very strange as well. Research these topics ahead of time so the assistant does not have to keep repeating information.

Advocate for accessible voting

After my experience voting in the election, I began to talk more often to my congressmen and senators about increasing accessibility in the election process. I have learned a lot more about how my state government works as a result.

Related links

Voting is incredibly important, as is supporting candidates and laws that benefit those with disabilities. By voting in these elections, you are able to support these things and exercise your civic duty. Information for this post comes from the Virginia Department of Elections; each state’s policies vary.

How do people with low vision vote? My experiences voting with a vision impairment in the 2016 and 2017 elections

4 thoughts on “How Do People With Vision Impairments… Vote?”

  • Thank you for this post. As a person with a visual impairment, I too have run into issues with voting accessibility. However, I do want to clarify something. The voting systems are not the same across the state. Each municipality is different when it ones to procedures and the physical way people cast their ballots. In Fairfax County or example, they use a paper ballot, but also offer accessible voting by using the “express vote machine.” The machine has many accessibility features including large print, invert colors, voice output, and switch access. These are very easy to use and is a great option for people with disabilities. I don’t know what other counties and cities in Virginia. The main obstacle I encounter with these machines is that sometimes the poll workers are not familiar with them and don’t know what I am asking for. Usually Usually the head official has to come help. I don’t have a problem with that.

    • I’ll update the post to reflect that. My county did not have this machine, so I am interested to look more into it. Thank you for your comment!

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