Thursday 16th June 2022, NCBI welcomes the passing of the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 through Dáil Éireann last night and encourages all Senators to support the Bill as it progresses through the legislative process. This legislation will establish an Electoral Commission which will play a pivotal role in ensuring people who are blind or vision impaired have equal opportunities to participate in a fundamental democratic process.
June Tinsley, NCBI Head of Communications and Advocacy said “There have been improvements in recent years to the electoral system as a result of legal challenges but there is more to do to address the outstanding issues for people who are blind or vision impaired. The Electoral Commission will be responsible for ensuring our electoral system is suitable for the 21st century.”
Currently some voters who are blind or vision impaired can use clunky tactile voting templates while others can dial an information line in advance of entering the polling station to get a list of candidates and their placement on the ballot paper.
Ms Tinsley continued “Being able to vote independently has been denied to many people who are blind or vision impaired for too long as the current supports are not fit for purpose, insufficient or not known. This needs to be addressed ahead of the next election which is scheduled for 2024.”
The Electoral Commission will be responsible for providing information and encouraging participation in the democratic processes. It will also be responsible for overseeing the electoral register.
Ms Tinsley concluded “The Electoral Commission will need to establish a new voter registration system that will move away from the inaccessible paper-based system. It is important that the Electoral Commission is cognisant of its responsibility to ensure digital equality for people who are blind or vision impaired when establishing its new systems to ensure they are fully accessible.”
NCBI hopes to see the swift establishment of the Electoral Commission and will engage constructively with the Commission to ensure the rights of people living with sight loss are upheld.