Blind people were denied right to voter information
Blind Citizens NZ
11 October 2013
It's not just voter apathy - blind people were denied right to voter information
Reports in the media say fewer people are voting in this year's local authority elections. That may be true, but blind people keen to vote, particularly in Auckland, say this year they were unable to get even basic information on candidates.
Everyone received printed voting packs in the mail. These packs not only let you cast your vote but they provide information on the candidates you can vote for. But blind people who are unable to read print must find that information in other ways, such as from websites.
"Blind people in Auckland found they were unable to access candidate information on the Vote Auckland website", says Clive Lansink, National President of Blind Citizens NZ. He added, "I'm pretty savvy with technology, having worked with computers all my life, but I certainly couldn't make it work. I tried entering my address, I tried searching for my local ward and community board, I even tried viewing all candidates, and nothing useful was returned. Just to compare, I quickly tried the Vote Wellington website and I congratulate them on how brilliantly easy it was to look up all the candidates and read what they had to say about themselves. At least this shows it can be done, and it is very disappointing that this year Auckland has somehow stuffed this up."
Blind Citizens NZ asserts that blind people have the same democratic right to vote as anyone else. This means we need access to the same information as everyone else. Clive says "of course we do miss out on all the billboards and most other publicity that goes on in our community. But we shouldn't miss out on the information that is formally provided by candidates and made available to all voters. This information needs to be clear and available in a variety of formats so everyone who wants to can get it."
"I recall this did work much better in Auckland when we last had an election. My partner and I are both blind, and we rely on the Vote Auckland website for information about candidates. This year they seem to have adopted an approach on their website that doesn't work with the screen readers blind people use. But their job is to serve the public, and that means all the public, and there really is no excuse for developing a website that just doesn't work for some people."
New Zealand has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This obliges New Zealand to ensure people with disabilities can cast a fully informed confidential vote in national and local elections so we can do our civic duty and play our part in democracy like everyone else. Blind Citizens NZ calls on the Government to take all necessary steps to make this a reality in future elections.
Founded in 1945, the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand Inc (Blind Citizens NZ) is New Zealand’s leading blindness consumer organisation and one of the country’s largest organisations of disabled consumers. Blind Citizens NZ’s aim is to heighten awareness of the rights of blind and vision impaired people and to remove the barriers that impact upon our ability to live in an accessible, equitable and inclusive society.