Machine allows visually-impaired voters access to privacy

Machine allows visually-impaired voters access to privacy
A machine called AutoMARK allows visually impaired voters some privacy. (Source: wvir)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - While many voters use a private booth, for people who are visually impaired, casting a private ballot is no guarantee. Now, there is technology that can help them do just that.

People who are blind usually bring a relative or friend with them to the polls.

“My son helped my wife and I to vote. I told him who I wanted to vote for and he wrote it down on the ballot,” President of National Federation of the Blind Blue Ridge Chapter Woodrow Berry said.

“In the past, I know they have the technology, and we would go to vote to use the technology. It either was not set up for us or we had to fill out a bunch of paperwork, and whoever was going to be with us had to fill it out and it was just a nuisance," Carolyn Berry said.

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia and American Council of the Blind of Virginia sued in July, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act which prompted the Virginia Department of Elections to offer visually-impaired voters screen reader compatible ballots by mail.

“It’s called AutoMARK and it has capabilities for the blind and for people who have troubles filling in the little bubbles on the ballot," Albemarle County Election Officer Kent Schlussel said.

Now, voters receiving ballots by mail or coming into a polling place have access to the technology that reads choices to a voter, has braille, and allows visually-impaired voters to privately fill out their ballot.

“The device talks to you or you can make the text larger on the screen, so it was a nice experience," Daniel Martin, who is blind, said.

While Martin also says poll workers could use more training on how to work the machine, he recommends it for those who are visually impaired.

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