Thursday, 2 June 2016
Kelly Vincent – Radio Adelaide Interview on Voting with a Disability
On Thursday 2nd June 2016, Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent was interviewed on Radio Adelaide to discuss how people with disabilities can vote in the upcoming election and how to make voting more accessible in the future. Here is the transcript and audio from the interview.
Pascale: It is the right of every Australian aged 18 years or over to vote in the upcoming election. However, the normally simple process of voting can become a challenge for someone living with disability. Kelly Vincent is the representative for the Dignity for Disability party in state parliament and spoke to breakfast producer Anita Butcher.
Kelly Vincent: People are allowed to vote for whomever they please and in the manner that they choose, one would hope, but there are significant barriers to that and that ranges everything from the fact that many people with disabilities, particularly intellectual disabilities, are not even enrolled to vote because they’re not given the support to enrol. There’s also a lack of wheelchair accessible polling booths and information that’s accessible to deaf and blind people in particular. So there are a range of issues that unfortunately prevent people with disabilities from voting in the manner of their choosing and that’s exactly why Dignity for Disability has put legislation forward to try and change that situation.
Anita Butcher: How many polling booths are accessible to wheelchair users?
Kelly Vincent: As many as two thirds are currently accessible to people using mobility aids from the research that we’ve undertaken, but of course 100% would always be preferable. The fact is that many people from the stories that we’re hearing are choosing a postal vote or are choosing to get assistance to vote from their car because that’s preferable to them when of course if that works for them that’s fine, but we think everyone should have the option to go into the polling booth, to have that experience but also to help ensure the security or the privacy of their vote as well.
Anita Butcher: And how about people living with a disability in a regional or remote location?
Kelly Vincent: Well, certainly given that there are already significant barriers to people with disabilities casting their vote, the added complexity of a regional area can add quite a challenge. Of course the Electoral Commission does provide mobile polling booths in remote areas such as the APY Lands, Aboriginal lands for example and I understand that those are accessible, but it’s also important that information is provided if necessary in other languages. It might be Aboriginal languages or sign language for example if the person in remote areas is also deaf. So we need to understand the tyranny of distance does add a significant challenge and that’s why it’s doubly important given the added complexity of sometimes cultural differences as well that we ensure that adequate and accessible information is out there.
Anita Butcher: So you touched on deaf people and Auslan just before, is that currently accessible to voters?
Kelly Vincent: Well, currently I think voting is reasonably accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people given that they are able to walk into a polling booth most of the time and make vote on the ballot without assistance. But there does seem to be a challenge from what we’re hearing about actually getting information about policies and procedures on how to vote in languages such as Auslan. That’s why the legislation that we are hoping to put forward in an updated version in the near future will include provisions for providing information about policies and voting procedures in Auslan, which I think is particularly important given that people will lose hearing quite commonly as they age. So we need to provide information I think both in Auslan and captioned as well.
Anita Butcher: Are you aware of any information that has been provided in Auslan or captions in regards to the new voting system?
Kelly Vincent: I’m not aware of any specifically. I could be wrong on that. I think a lot of the information that we do see come out of our policies from my view often comes from within the deaf community, so it’s the deaf community making their own announcements and their own views known about policies rather than particular parties or electoral commissions for example actually taking that initiative to be accessible to all . So again I think I could be wrong on that. I think things are gradually improving but I think we do need to get more awareness out there that this is something that will affect more and more people particularly as they age so we need to invest in getting this right.
Anita Butcher: How does someone who is vision impaired or blind vote?
Kelly Vincent: Well as our bill that’s been put forward to parliament in the recent past suggests, we do think there is a need for telephone and other electronic means of voting to protect the anonymity and autonomy of blind people who wish to cast a vote. At the moment is seems as lot of people with vision impairment are having to rely on a friend or a family member for example to mark the ballot paper for them because obviously if you can’t see the ballot paper it’s hard to mark it independently. So we think the right way to respect people’s right to private and autonomous vote is to put in place electronic methods of voting which could be telephone voting, but in the future other technologies will become increasingly available and that’s why we need to keep the definition of electronically assisted voting quite open in the legislation that we’re putting forward. So we hope that as technology advances and as our awareness of disability rights and including people with disabilities in all facets of life increases we will see electronic voting taken up and that’s why we’ve suggested that and I’ll put that forward in our bill that we’re putting to parliament.
Anita Butcher: And how do people living with an intellectual disability vote?
Kelly Vincent: This is an interesting one. Anecdotally it seems like a lot of people with intellectual disability are not enrolled to vote. Often it seems the reason for that is that the people who would otherwise support them to fill out the paperwork or to cast their vote if their intellectual disability means that they need assistance with that are the very same people who make an assumption that because of their intellectual disability that they don’t have the intellectual capacity to vote. Now, I find that an interesting argument given that I think there are plenty of people without disabilities who don’t necessarily understand all the ins and outs of our electoral system. And you know we often hear or sometimes hear arguments like they’re going to vote for people based on their looks or other things about them that might be quite separate to policy. But I think this idea that you need to have a very intimate understanding of the ins and outs of all electoral reform and process is a bit of a false one.
It’s interesting because there’s no research that we’ve been able to find that’s been undertaken as far as we’re aware about how many people with disabilities are not enrolled to vote because of their disability, but anecdotally from what we’re hearing from people with intellectual disabilities themselves it does seem to be a big problem. So as well as making sure that information’s accessible to deaf people who might use Auslan and captioning for example, we also need to make sure that information is available things like easy English so its accessible to people to might have low literacy levels and also that we get understanding out there that people with intellectual disability have the same right and responsibility to vote as anyone else.
Anita Butcher: So you introduced the Voting Accessibility Bill a couple of years ago, how successful was it?
Kelly Vincent: We didn’t actually end up bringing it through a vote at the time that it was brought to parliament back in 2014 because parliament prorogued and we haven’t yet reintroduced it because we’re looking at different ways and things that we might need to improve, including the inclusion of Auslan for example before we reintroduce it. But I’m hoping to reintroduce it in the near future because I think this is a really important issue and given that we’re about to go into an election it’s certainly not an issue that will go away anytime soon.