Information needs of voters with visual impairment in the electoral and voting process in Zimbabwe

Emmanuel Munemo

Abstract


The major thrust of this study was to establish the electoral and voting needs of voters with visual impairment. The study also intended to determine the extent to which these needs have been met by electoral authorities in Zimbabwe as well as suggesting ways through which the outstanding concerns could be addressed. The study was carried out in five provinces of Zimbabwe (Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Harare). The qualitative research paradigm was applied. The interpretive research design was also used in line with the research philosophy and opportunity sampling was utilised. The study revealed that voters with visual impairment were excluded from the electoral and voting processes due to the use of only ordinary print to present information. Not all voters with visual impairment can access information presented in normal print. Many of them prefer formats such as Braille, computer based software, desktop screens and enlarged print. The study also found out that election authorities were not doing much to improve the format through which information is presented to them. Visually impaired voters indicated that they acquired most of the electoral and voting information through political rallies, radio and to a limited extent, television. The study recommended that presentation of voting information should be extended to other inclusive formats such as Braille, enlarged print, audio and information technology (for example computer based software), desktop voting screens and magnifying sheets. Political parties and electoral authorities should explore and diversify the ways through which information is presented to voters with visual impairment if effective inclusion of these voters is to be realised.

Keywords


visual impairment, enlarged print, Braille, magnifying sheets, voting format, access

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