Innovative Practice 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

A Ballot Template for the Blind

Boğaziçi University, located in Istanbul, has partnered with the non-profit Association of Barrier Free Access (ABFA) to create a ballot template for the blind that can be used both by those who can read Braille and those who cannot. As a result of this pilot project, people who are blind can cast their vote without assistance, thus ensuring their confidentiality. In 2018, some 3,000 people used the new ballots in the presidential and parliamentary elections across all 87 election regions of the country.

“When I had to be assisted in voting, I had to be content with imagining what a ballot paper or ballot box looked like. But when I cast my ballot on my own, I experience the procedure in person.”

A ballot template beneficiary
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Accessible and confidential election is possible, it should not be postponed
Organisation:Boğaziçi University and the Association of Barrier Free Access
Country
of Implementation
Turkey

FACTS & FIGURES

  • In 2017, 5,000 templates were piloted during the Turkish Constitution referendum.
  • The template can be adapted to the specific candidates of a region, thereby allowing blind voters to participate nationwide.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

Because blind people in Turkey can only vote with assistance, thus violating their confidentiality, most choose not to vote at all.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

People preparing the ballot templates.

The ballot template is made of durable and thick paper that is placed over the actual paper ballot and that allows voters to identify the candidates through tactile round cut-outs in the template, representing the candidates and parties. The template can be adapted to the specific candidates of a region, thus allowing blind voters to participate nationwide. Moreover, to identify which cut-out represents which candidate, the Audio Description Association provides information about all candidates in the various regions and prepares videos to provide information prior to the elections. The videos are made accessible with audio descriptions, subtitles and sign language for voters who are blind or deaf. The information is based on the data provided on the website of the Supreme Electoral Council, the highest electoral authority in the country.

Five thousand templates were first piloted in the 2017 Turkish Constitution referendum, and in response several organizations for the blind requested that the template be available for the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018.

FUNDING, OUTLOOK AND TRANSFERABILITY

To date, Boğaziçi University has been the sole funder of the design and manufacturing of the ballot templates. Currently, the University and the ABFA are in contact with the Supreme Electoral Council to find a way to adapt and apply the templates during the municipality elections in March 2019. One proposal is to charge $1 per template to cover production costs. For the 2018 election, Boğaziçi University covered the template costs and ABFA covered the delivery expenses.

As a consequence of the template’s successful introduction, the Supreme Electoral Council has agreed to permit the use of the templates upon request from blind voters in the future.

The concept of a ballot template can be used in every country. To replicate these specific ballot templates, an expert printing house and the support of organizations for people with disabilities are needed for their design, production, and dissemination.

Sample of Parliamentary Election Ballot Template

FACTSHEET

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