Training the Poll Worker: Empowering the Blind Voter

Here are some of the key aspects to preparing poll workers to work effectively with blind voters:

  1. Poll workers must have knowledge of the voting technology.
  2. Poll workers must understand the user interface and must be able to troubleshoot problems and enable speech if necessary.
  3. Poll workers must learn how to deal directly with the blind voter.

Courtesy rules for poll workers to keep in mind:

  1. I'm an ordinary person, just blind. You don't need to raise your voice or address me as if I were a child. Don't ask my spouse questions about what I want or need; ask me directly.
  2. Don't avoid words like "see." I use them too. "I'm always glad to see you."
  3. I use a long white cane or guide dog for travel; please do not feel that it is necessary to move things out of my way. If I am using a cane, do not grab it. Likewise, if I am using a dog, please do not speak to or pet the dog without first asking my permission.
  4. If we are walking together, you are welcome to offer me your arm. However, do not grab my arm; let me take yours. I'll keep a half step behind to anticipate curbs and steps.
  5. If there is something that I need to do, please provide me with directions or information rather than simply doing it for me without telling me.
  6. I don't want pity. But don't talk about the "wonderful compensations" of blindness. My sense of smell, touch, or hearing did not improve when I became blind. I rely on them more and, therefore, may get more information through those senses than you do--that's all.
  7. I'll discuss blindness with you if you're curious, but it's an old story to me. I am a part of our community, and I have as many other interests as you do.
  8. Don't think of me as just a blind person. I'm a person who happens to be blind.
  9. There is no need for me to jump to the front of the line because I am blind. Please expect me to do the same things as all voters. Consider bringing in blind individuals from the local NFB chapter to present the appropriate  way to interact with the blind (their personal stories will make a difference).
  10. To find information about your local NFB affiliate, visit our state and local organizations page. 
  11. DO NOT perform disability simulations. If not done properly, they send a negative message.
  12. Preserve the right of a blind voter to vote privately. Blind voters have the right to the "secret" ballot. Some voters may choose not to use the voting machines and seek the assistance of sighted poll workers or another designated person of their choice. Blind voters should not be forced to use a particular method of voting over another.

To view or download a video demonstrating some of the above courtesy rules, left click on the link below to view or right click to download.

Training the poll worker about nonvisual election technology:

Use the following checklists to ensure that poll worker training adequately covers the nonvisual election technology operation and user interface.  These documents are available in Word, text, ASCII, and Duxbury formats.  Right click on the links below to download the desired format.  

At a minimum, poll worker training should also include instruction on how to navigate through the audio ballot, how low vision features operate, and how to address potential problems with the nonvisual election technology on election day.  These documents are available below in Word, text, ASCII, and Duxbury formats.  Right click on the links to download the desired format.  For the most up to date training materials, contact the nonvisual election technology manufacturer.

To view or download a video demonstration of the User Interface Reference Guide, left click on the link below to view or right click to download:

 Use the following documents to train poll workers about the low vision features available on accessible voting machines and how to troubleshoot problems that may be encountered with the audio ballot:

Use the link below to view or download a certificate that may be presented to poll workers upon their successful completion of the poll worker training and awareness curriculum.  Left click on the link to view the certificate or right click to download.

Other things to consider:

  1. Great benefits come from having people with disabilities as poll workers. Consider approaching your local NFB chapter to recruit blind people to work at the polls.
         a. Consider placing an announcement on your state's NFB-NEWSLINE® system in order to advertise the need for poll workers (your state NFB-NEWSLINE®Coordinator can help with this).
         b. Remind blind individuals that poll worker pay does NOT count against disability benefits.
  2. In many communities, a committee of consumers is used to give feedback on the voting process and poll worker training.
  3. Consider separating the disability awareness/accessibility training out from the general poll worker training (have it on a separate day). This way poll workers are more likely to pay attention specifically to that information. Having at least one poll worker who has had extensive training at each site is suggested.
  4. While blind people do not want to skip the line, some states have laws requiring poll workers to move people with disabilities to the front of the line. Consideration should be given to training the poll workers on offering this rather than forcing it upon voters.
  5. In recent elections with accessible voting machines, frequent problems were:
         a. A lack of helpfulness among poll workers, assuming that the machine was enough.
         b. Only directing people with disabilities to the accessible voting machine rather than treating it as a machine available to all voters (this creates a negative stigma, presents problems in areas where there are few people using the machine, and does not effectively move people through the polling place). Accessible voting machines are for everyone. Consider placing the accessible machine in the middle rather than on an end by itself in order to reinforce this concept.

We hope these suggestions will help you to be better poll workers.