Saturday, October 11, 2008

Voting "sounds" great to the visually impaired

As 19-year-old Cecilia Milligan pointed out during a brief speech Wednesday at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind, all Americans have the right the vote, but for some that right is difficult to execute.

Rick Moses, 33, of Spartanburg, center, gets help from Hampton Miller in using technology that helps residents who are hearing impaired or visually impaired vote. The systems were introduced Wednesday in Spartanburg.

Milligan is in the deaf school at SCSDB and a senior at Dorman High School. This election cycle is her first opportunity to vote, and thanks to new technology she easily can.

SCSDB and South Carolina Election Commission representatives were at the school Wednesday to unveil a video demonstrating the voting process for the deaf or hard of hearing community. The event also included a voter registration drive and demonstration of touch-screen voting systems equipped with headphones and Braille for visually impaired voters.

"The deaf have that right," Milligan signed, "the right to vote for whomever we want to vote for. So thank you."

Scott Falcone, SCSDB director of the Midlands regional outreach center, represented the school on the South Carolina Disability Voting Coalition to help create the video. The DVD, which will be available at all handicap-accessible polling locations, will run on a loop, taking voters step by step through the voting process.

It features audio, sign language and closed captioning communication.

"It provides a sense of independence," Falcone said. "I'm very happy and proud of the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind, the South Carolina Election Commission and everybody else who was involved in this."

Those who viewed the video for the first time also had the opportunity to participate in a demonstration of the touch-screen voting systems to be used in November. Visually impaired voters receive audio confirmation of their vote, and Braille directs them to buttons instead of the touch screen.

Elaine Sveen, SCSDB director of research and accountability, talked briefly about the challenges her son Rick, who is blind, has faced while voting.

"He had to trust me, as we debated political issues, to vote the way he chose to vote," Sveen explained. "I am so thankful that today he can go to the voting booth independently and do it with privacy."

The machines, which are battery operated, can also be removed from stands and taken to voters in their wheelchairs, cars or any other easily accessible place.

The video can be viewed online at Click on the "voters" link then scroll down to "voters with disabilities."


Post a Comment

<< Home