Following is my recent voting experience as a 1st time blind voter. I was not able to vote in the last general election(GE12) as I was still recuperating from a severe bacterial infection (January 2008) which resulted in losing my sight and also affected my liver and lungs then.
Both my wife, my son and I decided to cast our votes early in the morning. We arrived at the polling centre at 9.30am and there were already long queues stretching all the way from the Matang Pagar community hall to the main road, causing traffic to slow down. As we walked to the hall entrance, a SPR(election commission) official, came to us, having noticed my white cane, asked if I needed the use of a wheelchair and I said it was not necessary. We then showed him the printed copy of our voting details and enquired about the next steps. He was most helpful and directed both my wife and I to `jump queue’ to the beginning of `saluran 1’(stream1) where there was a long line of senior adults waiting patiently for their turn to fulfil their voting rights. We queued behind a couple of wheelchair bound person and an elderly lady. When our turn came, both my wife and I approached the desk, had our identity cards checked and my left index finger `painted’ with the much talked about indelible ink. A SPR lady then told me she could assist me to cast my vote as my wife was also casting hers. I politely told her that I am aware that I am allowed to bring along a person whom I trust and in my case, I trusted my wife, I said with a smile. So, I was told to wait for a few minutes for my wife to fulfil her voting responsibilities and she then guided me to the voting booth, showed and explained the ballot paper details and marked the choice of my candidate and guided me to drop the ballot papers into the respective boxes(Parliament and State). We were then directed to another desk and my wife had to fill in a form (borang 10), a consent and helper form.
As we made our way out, I met up with my son, still waiting in line (saluran3) under the hot blazing early morning sun, he informed that there was an earlier commotion where a senior adult shouted to the SPR officials that there should be another stream (saluran) for the disabled instead of allowing the disabled jumping queues which upset the complainant. However, the SPR officials kept their cool and tried to explain to the senior adult to have patience and understand the difficulties of the disabled. Perhaps, the senior adult should insist that the queue line be air conditioned just for him.
I look forward to the day where the blind will be able to cast their vote independently, without any helper assistance but only with assistive technology assistance in the voting booth.
More challenges ahead!