Independent Voting for People with Vision Disabilities in Bedford County, Pennsylvania

Americas, December 16 2015

BEDFORD, Pa.: When Jill Gordon’s father lost his sight, he lost some of his independence. Now, Jill, the new Director of Elections for Bedford County, is helping her father and others who are blind or have low vision regain their independence and privacy in the voting booth.

Jill Gordon was inspired to teach her county’s voters about the accessible ballots available to them after a hands-on demonstration from a Hart InterCivic trainer.

“When I saw that this technology would allow my dad to vote with no one helping him, I stood there and I cried,” Gordon said. “Now I know it can be done and I want poll workers and those with disabilities to know, too.”

Setting up a Hart voting machine in training mode, Gordon has staged several sessions to introduce the audio ballot with Braille markings to people with vision disabilities. They’ve even been featured on local television.

In April, Gordon trained a long-time voter who was accustomed to whispering his answers to a helper and hoping that his vote was recorded correctly.

“Once he realized there were Braille labels, he was reading the directions to me first!” Gordon said. “In May he voted independently for the first time in his life. That’s what I count as success.”

Using headphones, an electronic reader and audio alerts for potential mismarks, the Hart Voting System developed by Hart InterCivic allows voters with disabilities to vote independently, even if they cannot see the ballot.

“The biggest thing is that the person doesn’t have to be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help. We don’t want voting to be intimidating,” Gordon added.

Ballots are cast, counted and stored no differently than any other ballot in the local jurisdiction, assuring a private vote for anyone using accommodations.  Making voting equipment accessible to every citizen is a priority for Hart InterCivic, a leading election innovator.

The Austin-based firm incorporates numerous features for voters with vision, or severe mobility disabilities:

  • Controls within reach for voters who use wheelchairs
  • Audio ballots accessible through headphones
  • Audible sounds to alert voters who are blind or have low vision if their ballot contains mismarks that require attention
  • Instructions in Braille and large print
  • Easy mobility for curbside voting, where allowed

For more information about Voting Solutions from Hart, please visit www.hartintercivic.com/voting-solutions-hart.

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