National Council for the Blind in Ireland have welcomed the new ballot.
Local people who live with blindness or a visual impairment will be able to use a brand new tactile ballot template in the upcoming Eighth Amendment referendum, marking the first time such an option has been available.
The new ballots will be available at every polling station in the country, according to the National Council for the Blind of Ireland.
Taking on board design recommendations from the NCBI, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has produced a tactile ‘ballot paper template’. The template is a clear plastic device which is placed over the ballot paper and features raised lettering, large print and braille.
It also has cut out sections to assist people to find where to mark their vote.
Joan Traynor from Dromiskin Co. Louth, who was born with sight loss has warmly welcomed the development. "[It's] great progress for people in Co. Louth. I am 59 and it will be the first time in my life that I will be able to go and cast my vote totally privately,"she said.
Dundalk man Martin Trodden who lives with Retinitis Pigmentosa, side-effects of which include difficulty seeing at night and a loss of peripheral vision, agrees.
"I feel this is a big help," the 42-year-old said. "It can be so hard to distinguish the polling cards and now I can
just go freely to cast my vote. It means a lot to me”.
Templates will be available at NCBI offices nationwide, including the Dundalk branch on Jocelyn Street, for people who would like to try them out in advance of the referendum .
The move to design and provide the ballot templates came about after a landmark High Court case taken by Dublin man Robbie Sinnott, who is vision impaired, last year.
Up until now people with sight loss had to rely on others to help them exercise their vote, thus compromising their privacy.
"This is an historic year for people who are blind or vision impaired. Up to now their vote was not secret, they had to discuss their choice with somebody else and they could not even be sure that their preferred vote went into the ballot box," Chris White CEO of the NCBI said.
"This situation was never acceptable to the NCBI and we are delighted that our recommendations have been taken on
board by the Department.
We are urging people with sight loss to contact the NCBI in advance of the upcoming referendum and try out the tactile templates to ensure they are comfortable and at ease using them. Our regional offices will be equipped with the templates and there will be ample time for people to have the opportunity to try them”.