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Join RNIB’s call on the Electoral Commission to rethink draft accessibility guidance

New guidance for local Returning Officers, to ensure disabled voters are supported to vote independently and in secret, falls short of its aims and will not do enough for blind and partially sighted people, we believe.

The Electoral Commission, the independent body which oversees elections in the UK, has drafted guidance which fails to sufficiently recognise and acknowledge the barriers that blind and partially sighted people face at the polling station.

This guidance needs to be robust, to improve accessibility, and needs to ensure blind and partially sighted people get the right support. It should set out how Returning Officers can address barriers to voting, through providing equipment and better training for polling station staff.

The Electoral Commission is consulting on its draft guidance until 16 January 2023, which means you can add your views on the support needed at the polling station.

Draft guidance does not do enough

Eleanor Thompson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said: “We are seriously concerned the new draft Electoral Commission guidance is not fit for purpose when it comes to making the voting experience accessible for people with sight loss.”

Changes introduced in the Elections Act 2022 have the potential to make accessible voting a reality for blind and partially sighted people. But this can only happen if polling staff understand the barriers experienced by voters with sight loss and provide the right support and equipment.

We’re calling for the Electoral Commission’s guidance to reflect the needs of blind and partially sighted people and:

  • clearly set out what equipment would facilitate blind and partially sighted people to vote independently and in secret
  • explain what support should be made available to blind and partially sighted voters at the polling station
  • provide advice on how to communicate with blind and partially sighted voters before elections, using their preferred formats like large print or braille.

The Electoral Commission’s guidance also needs to acknowledge that the tactile voting device – a plastic template placed over the ballot paper to help voters with sight loss locate the voting boxes – doesn’t create an accessible voting experience on its own.

Have your say

You can read the Electoral Commission’s draft guidance and respond to its consultation by 16 January 2023, by email at [email protected] or by calling 0333 103 1928 if you require any help to be able to respond.