Monday, November 6

Accessible voting for all

Greetings. Since tomorrow is election day, I thought this was an appropriate post to make. If you're blind or vision impaired, and the voting place you visit does not have an accessible voting machine for you to use, then please report it to the NFB either tomorrow or Wednesday.

Blind Americans to Cast First Secret Ballot

National Federation of the Blind to Monitor Compliance

BALTIMORE, MD, October 24, 2006: The National
Federation of the Blind announced today that it
has created a hotline for blind and visually impaired voters
to report any difficulties in casting their
ballots both secretly and independently in the
upcoming election. The purpose of the hotline will be to monitor
compliance with the provisions of the Help
America Vote Act (HAVA) relating to nonvisual
access to the voting process for the blind.

James Gashel, Executive Director for Strategic
Initiatives at the National Federation of the
Blind, said: "This election is historic because it is the
first general election since the implementation
date for the accessibility provisions of the Help
America Vote Act. I was able to vote independently and
completely in private for the first time in the
Maryland primary election last month and look
forward to doing it again in November, when many blind voters
across the nation will cast a secret ballot for
the first time in their lives. The ability to
cast a secret ballot is not only thrilling for us as blind
voters, it protects our democracy by ensuring
that nobody exercises undue influence over us or
engages in outright fraud while pretending to help us vote.
A secret vote is just as important for blind
voters as it is for every other American."

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National
Federation of the Blind, said: "The National
Federation of the Blind led the effort to make it possible for
the blind to vote independently and in secret,
like all other Americans. We have been working
to help jurisdictions to comply with that statute by providing
educational and training materials through our
National Center for Nonvisual Election
Technology. Having worked so hard to achieve full and equal participation
by the blind in the voting process, it is our
duty to ensure that no blind American is denied
the right to cast a secret ballot, and we will take any action
that is necessary and appropriate to carry out that obligation."

The National Federation of the Blind HAVA
National Compliance Hotline will be available at
1-877-632-1940 from 7:00 AM-10:00 PM EST on Election Day (Tuesday,
November 7) and from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM on
Wednesday, November 8. Callers will be asked
where they are voting and whether they have been able to cast their
ballot with accessible equipment. The National
Federation of the Blind will analyze the data
collected and conduct any appropriate follow-up, including
assisting voters with actionable grievances in
filing complaints with the United States Department of Justice.

Passed in 2002, the Help America Vote Act was
intended to help states replace outdated voting
equipment such as the punch card machines that caused problems
during the 2000 presidential election. The law
mandates that every polling place in the nation
must have at least one voting station accessible to the
blind. As of January 1, 2006, jurisdictions
should be complying by using electronic voting
terminals, special ballot-marking devices, or vote-by-phone
systems. All of these methods use audio prompts
to read the ballot to a blind voter and allow the
voter to make ballot choices using a keypad. This technology
allows the blind to vote without the assistance
of a sighted poll worker. "Since many
jurisdictions will be using new voting equipment that is accessible
to the blind for the first time," Dr. Maurer
explained, "we feel that it is essential to
collect data on whether that equipment has been implemented and
works properly."

The National Federation of the Blind was
instrumental in advocating for the nonvisual
access language contained in the HAVA and received a grant under
that statute to ensure its implementation. The
National Center for Nonvisual Election Technology
(NCNET) was established by the Federation to carry out
the terms of the grant. The NCNET has developed
an on-line curriculum and a DVD to help make
election officials aware of the needs of blind voters and
to help jurisdictions select appropriate
equipment to provide nonvisual access to the blind at the polling place.

For more information about the National
Federation of the Blind and its work on access to
elections, visit

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