Braille ballot to assist visually impaired voters in South Africa

April 17th, 2009 - 1:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Pretoria, April 17 (IANS) 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 Pansy Tlakula told BuaNews the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has developed the Braille template to ensure blind South Africans enjoyed similar rights as others at polling stations countrywide.

Tlakula said each polling station will be provided with Braille template for the national and provincial elections.

According to the IEC, the Braille ballot 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.

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,” Rowland said.

Rowland, who is visually impaired himself, said last week that 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, the visually impaired people were able to cast their votes with the assistance of a person of their own choice.

This method, however, will still be used during the upcoming elections as the vast majority of the visually impaired people do not read Braille, Rowland said.

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