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A new dawn: first time using an app to vote

Richard Holmes, RNIB's Parliamentary and Public Affairs Manager blogs on his first experience of voting independently using a smartphone app.

Richard Holmes standing outside the RNIB London office beneath a sign reading 'See Differently'.

Today (as ever) I had that sense of excitement as I went along to vote.

However, today was even more exciting and I admit I was a little nervy too. But why be worried about undertaking such a simple task as voting? Well, the Cabinet Office, who oversee elections, has taken a step forward in ensuring accessible elections.

The Cabinet Office have contacted all the local Returning Officers to let them know that a voter with sight loss may use a mobile phone app like Seeing AI or a magnifier to better read the ballot paper and to vote.

From past experience and feedback from other RNIB supporters, I was expecting a long discussion at the very least and perhaps even to be denied the opportunity to use my magnifier along with Seeing AI. However, nothing could have been further from my experience. As I peered at the list of streets at the first table to try and find where I should go, I was approached by a friendly helpful member of staff and asked whether I needed to be guided.

Then when I got to the desk, I was asked whether I needed the Tactile Voting Device (TVD).

I then explained that I would like to use my smartphone app which would read out the names of the candidates to me. What a step forward this is from the usual memory game – I think the person I wanted was at 3 but perhaps that was the other lot and it was actually 5.

All this uncertainty was swept away and my ability to then vote independently and in secret was secured by then using the TVD to place my vote.

Please do therefore take this route if you think it will help. It is very important to let staff know what you want to do and how you want to do it.

Accessible voting takes a step forward but still more steps yet to take. We’re hoping that before long we’ll have a solution that will guarantee blind and partially sighted people can vote independently and in secret every time.