Here is the text of what I said in the above video:
You may or may not know that, for the first time in the up-coming referendum, blind people – finally – have won the right to a private ballot. Up until now, there was no way to have a private ballot if you couldn’t read the ballot paper and write on it yourself. As a work-around, for many years, people like myself have been entitled to the postal vote. But in fact, this was a system that was set up for people who could not physically get to a polling station on the day of the vote. So it was used as a way of ensuring that people with disabilities, particularly in rural areas, could still manage to get a vote.
However, it was not a guarantee if you had a disability. A couple of years ago, in Dublin, my mother was turned down the postal vote because she had a guide dog and access to public transport. It was deemed that she could get to her polling station without any extra assistance. So then it became an issue of: How are you supposed to vote privately when you can’t see the ballot paper?
Robbie Sinnott succeeded in taking a case to the Supreme Court [*] under the Equality Act [**]. It means that, this time around, in polling stations around Ireland, there will be a Braille and large print template that will sit over the ballot paper, which will facilitate people with visual impairments and blind people being able to vote on their own. However, this does not extend to the postal vote.
I am going to demonstrate to you why it does need to be extended to the postal vote. I have difficulty leaving the house sometimes. My pain condition fluctuates massively from day to day, as do my energy levels. It could well happen that, on the day of a vote, I would not be able to get out of bed or out of my house. I am also visually impaired. So I am going to show you why the postal vote needs to have that template as well, in order to make sure that I also have the right to a private ballot. Which, currently, I don’t.
[In this section, I am going through the papers in the envelope containing my postal ballot paper]
This arrived in the post the other day. [Opens envelope.] Inside, there is… well, there’s a big paper-clip, so I know there’s a load of things clipped together.
So, that is what looks like the ballot paper. Now, in this case, it’s a referendum, so there’s only a yes or no. That’s relatively simple for me to work out. However, I’ve been presented with ballot papers with twenty-plus names on it. In that case, trying to make sure that you’re writing in the correct box beside the correct person is a real lottery.
If there’s one thing an election shouldn’t be, it’s a lottery.
It also includes forms, and these forms and directions and all the rest of it – they’re all just in ordinary print.
I can’t read that!
In fact, I have to get my Personal Assistant to go through all the forms, fill out any bits of information that need to be filled out, and she just puts an X where I need to sign – and I sign it. Also, she has to determine which is the correct envelope to put the correct bit of paper in. I’ve been given two here and… [shrugs] I don’t know what’s on them!
And then… I think this is the instructions, which, again, my Personal Assistant has to read out to me.
Given that it’s a referendum, obviously it’s quite straight-forward. There’s a “Yes” and a “No”, and I’m pretty sure the “Yes” will be on top and the “No” will be underneath. Nonetheless, the principle of me also being able to access a Braille and large print template, which is a frame that would fit over the ballot paper… I think it has all the text, but in much larger print, and it also has Braille. I’d be able to lay it on top of the ballot paper, read the Braille, then there would be a nicely, clearly marked tactile box. I’d be able to stick a pen into the correct box and make my mark.
I can’t do that under the current system, and therefore the government has not yet actually extended the private ballot to all the citizens of Ireland of legal voting age in every other respect – apart from disability.
That needs to change.
Remember to get out and vote, however and wherever you’re doing it.
The referendum on repealing the 8th Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland takes place on 25th May, 2018… unless, like me, you’ve already voted!
[* The case was won in the High Court]
[** I was thinking in terms of the Equality Act 2000, which has had a number of updates since. The link takes you to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the statutory body for protecting and advancing human rights and equality in Ireland]