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Blanke Ark Election System

All citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote and this is the foundation of democracy. Yet, it has not always been so simple to make this happen in practice.

Problem

The current election equipment in Norway has been difficult for voters with common disabilities to access. Ballots were unreachable for wheelchair users and visually impaired people could not vote without asking for assistance in the booth – a violation of the rules of a closed election. This project looked at how the ballot and booth system could be redesigned to make government elections accessible and appealing for everyone.

Approach

− Lead users: Visually impaired people, older people, people with reduced physical ability as well as cleaners and election officers who could provide detailed insights into existing problems.

− Initial methods: Phone conversations and face-to-face interviews with lead users provided insights and inspiration that helped to establish design specification.

− Additional methods: Presentation of mock-ups and sketches to lead users to adjust and select initial designs. These were built as full-scale prototypes for testing in situ. At this stage, a reference group consisting of lead users was established to follow the project until completion. They gave feedback on general concept directions as well as design details, taking ideas through several iterations. They gave the green light on the final product specification.

− Evaluation: Questionnaires and focus groups were used to collect feedback and a team of observers followed people on election day to assess the new designs.

Result

Blanke Ark can be accessed by voters with different abilities. The graphic profile of all elements is consistent. Black text and symbols are displayed on a white background and the deliberate use of orange attracts greater attention to selected elements. Orange guide tape provides a good contrast against most floors. Booths have two table heights to accommodate standing and sitting voters and are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Labelling for the ballot papers have a suitable font size for low vision users and ballot papers are folded removing the need for ‘difficult to access’ envelopes. The curtain now has a high contrast orange rod to make it easier to handle. The ballot box, where the ballot paper is posted, is placed at a height that wheelchair users can reach. The opening is high contrast orange and shaped to aid those with unsteady hands or visual impairment.