ABS announces updated processes for same-sex marriage postal vote

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Friday, 18 August 2017 13:01pm

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) sent out a news release on Thursday 17 August announcing a newly updated process for the upcoming ‘Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey’ including an online option for blind and vision-impaired people. However, they are still trying to work out how they will actually be able to do it.

Accessibility button on a laptop

Accessibility button on a laptop

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) announced the newly expanded processes in the afternoon of 17 August, after many feared that blind and vision-impaired people were to be largely excluded from being able to independently take part in the controversial same-sex marriage postal vote.

The ABS were already providing a translator service, instructions in 15 languages on the reverse of the letter to accompany the survey, use easy English to support those with lower literacy, use of the National Relay Service for those who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment, and some remote-location pick up and drop off points.

The new development is that they are now going to be offering an accessible online option, which is very welcome news. To quote the ABS website section on updated processes:

“In limited circumstances, a person will be able to respond to the survey through a paperless method. This method will be made available only to Australians overseas or who cannot reasonably receive their material via post, Australians with blindness, low vision or other disability that makes the paper form a more difficult option, or those in residential aged care.”

“Eligible Australians in these categories will be able to request a secure access code from the ABS. The secure access code is then used to provide a survey response.”

The ‘Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey Information Line’ can be free-called on 1800 572 113 for more information and is open seven days a week, 8am to 8pm (local time).

When Media Access Australia called the phone line on Friday afternoon 18 August, the customer service person said that the specifics on how the online access option would actually work were currently not known. She told Media Access Australia that they were still working out as to how they will actually achieve it.

We were also told that it has all been such a rushed thing and to keep coming back to check on the ABS website as it is being updated daily and sometimes hourly. She also advised to check the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website which should have more details on how the online access will be achieved on 22 August.

Her final piece of advice was to call again in about a week as the customer service people manning the line would have been briefed by 24 or 25 August on the specifics of this 'limited circumstances' online option.

Media Access Australia will aim to keep you posted on the accessibility implications and latest developments regarding this upcoming voting survey. Plus also check out Dr Scott Hollier's August 2017 blog piece on why all voting should be accessible.

You can enrol to vote or update your details via the AEC website, which is where the ABS will get their postal data from. If you've moved since the last election, advise the AEC before midnight 24 August 2017 as your ballot will be posted to your old address if you don’t let them know.

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