Visionary Israeli company gives sight to blind at ballot box

The devices, by visual aid company OrCam, are available at accessible polling stations throughout Israel as the country votes in the general election on Tuesday.

By CTech

Artificial vision device company OrCam Technologies Ltd. has partnered with Israel’s Central Elections Committee (CEC) to enable visually impaired voters to cast their ballots independently as the country votes in the general election Tuesday.

More than 6.3 million Israelis are eligible to vote, according to the CEC, of whom approximately 22,000 are legally blind, according to the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services. Another 100,000 voters have visual impairments. Blind and visually impaired people usually vote with the assistance of an escort.

OrCam’s device, MyEye2, is designed to help visually impaired people “see their ballot.” The finger-size device is fitted with a camera and microphone and clips onto glasses, discreetly reading printed and digital text aloud to the person donning the device. On election day, the device will be available for use in 12 polling stations throughout Israel, from Eilat in the south to Akko in the north, as part of a pilot plan.

On election day, OrCam’s device is scanning the text on the ballots and reading the party names directly to the user. “While the device uses a camera, it does not store any of the information it reads, thereby maintaining the privacy of the voter,” Matan Bar-Noy, OrCam’s director of business development said in a Sunday interview with Calcalist.

The pilot program is conducted in cooperation with the Center for the Blind in Israel.

Jerusalem-based OrCam was founded in 2010 by Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram, the founders of autonomous vehicle technology company Mobileye B.V., and was sold to Intel in 2017 for $15.3 billion. OrCam has raised more than $130 million to date and employs approximately 200 people, according to Pitchbook data.