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Induction loop devices are portable and easy to use, Source: Lappeenranta Municipality

Lappeenranta may become a pioneer in sensory accessibility thanks to induction loops

Lappeenranta may become a pioneer in sensory accessibility thanks to induction loops

The city’s Council for the Disabled has proposed that the introduction of this technology will increase local election turnout – for starters

Lappeenranta's voting numbers have been below the Finnish average for years. The voting figures show that measures must be taken to improve voting activity in that city. One interesting proposal to solve that has come from the city’s disability council – and it has nothing to do with political ideology or election reforms.

The call for the authorities is to make the election stations more accessible to those people living with sensory impairments, such as hearing difficulties. These voters may feel confused and lost in the public space if they find it hard to follow the instructions on how to vote. The council has suggested that this could easily be resolved if the electoral stations were equipped with the so-called induction loops.

These are devices that use a magnetic field to transfer sounds wirelessly, which can be picked by people wearing hearing aids set to their T mode.

Pioneering accessibility, participation and interaction in all walks of life

There are approximately 800,000 people in Finland who have some degree of hearing loss (about 15% of the total population). More than 100,000 of them use hearing aids and/or cochlear implants. Many citizens are turned off by the voting process due to perceived aural inaccessibility in the voting sections. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The induction loop has been used for sound transmission for several decades. An induction (or service) loop is an additional aid for hearing aid users, which wirelessly transfers sound via the magnetic field generated in the loop directly to the telephone coil of the hearing aid. The sound is transferred cleanly without interference and with a suitable intensity, making it easy for the hearing aid user to follow.

The service loops are small, easy-to-carry devices and they cost only about 500 euros each.

The implementation of this initiative enables the voting activation of the hearing impaired, it lowers the threshold of the hearing impaired to vote, when there is a certainty that he can hear everything he needs to and thus know how to act correctly in a public place, without feeling a sense of shame or embarrassment,” explained Pekka Tikka, a disability council behind the proposed initiative.

Other proposals to make the voting process more accessible

Thanks to this initiative, the Council for the Disabled has brought the hearing impaired community into consideration, especially during election time. Another large group of sensory disabilities should also be taken into account in elections, however, namely the visually impaired

It turns out that at the polling stations in the city of Lappeenranta, there has been no voting list available in Braille. “It would be great if, in the next elections, every polling place had a voting list in Braille at least in one polling booth,” said Jaana Kauppinen, chairman of the Disabled People's Council.

Another easy-to-implement method would be the creation of a voting list. In other words, there would be a recording on the city's website stating each of the candidates’ names, voting numbers and parties. This can enable the visually impaired to familiarize themselves with their choices in advance.

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