16 April 2009
Visually impaired South Africans will be able to cast their votes secretly for the first time on a Braille ballot sheet during next week’s general elections.
Chief Electoral Officer Pansy Tlakula said the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had developed the Braille template to ensure that blind South Africans enjoyed similar rights as others at polling stations countrywide.
Tlakula said each polling station would be provided with one such template for the national election and another for the provincial election. The templates were produced in Cape Town. South Africa is the second country, after Japan, to produce the model.
According to the IEC, the Braille ballot, from left to right, 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, and each polling station queue will feed into an area where such a booth is available.
Speaking to BuaNews in Pretoria this week, South African National Council for the Blind President William Rowland said the introduction of the Braille ballot was a milestone for the country’s visually impaired people.
Being visually impaired, Rowland said that he was given the opportunity last week to cast two mock ballots at the IEC offices, which he found to be easy and effective.
“For the first time, blind people who can read Braille will have a truly secret vote,” Rowland said.
In previous elections, visually impaired people were able to cast their votes with the assistance of a person of their own choice over the age of 18. This method will still be used during this year’s elections, as the vast majority of visually impaired South Africans do not read Braille.