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Washington State Senate Chambers Get Braille Upgrade For Lt. Governor-Elect

Jeanie Lindsay
Northwest News Network
In preparation for his term as Washington lieutenant governor, Cyrus Habib tested out new Braille systems Thursday designed to help him preside over the state Senate during the 2017 legislative session.

Lt. Gov.-elect Cyrus Habib is among five statewide elected officials set to take office in Washington next week. He also happens to be blind.

On Thursday, Habib tested out a newly-installed Braille system to help him preside over the state Senate. With IT staff and legislative aides, Habib used the new hardware to run through a mock Senate session.

At first, Habib thought a person would be assisting him on the floor. Instead, the Senate administration offered a tech upgrade.

The system will allow Habib to keep order and recognize senators when they wish to speak on the floor. Senate members will press buttons on their desks to notify the lieutenant governor through a high-tech Braille pad at his lectern.

“I didn’t 100 percent believe it would be possible until we tried it out yesterday and today,” Habib said. “Today was the real first kind of run-through and it was awesome.”

The system, installed by Senate IT employees, took approximately eight weeks to finish. Work on the project began shortly after the election, and the total cost of the upgrades was around $70,000.

After working with the new system over the course of two days, Habib gave his stamp of approval.

“It works phenomenally,” Habib said. “And it’s so impressive to see that we can use technology in this way to fully even the playing field, or make this process run just as smoothly as if I had full eyesight. It’s really remarkable.”

Habib will be sworn in Wednesday, after the 2017 session begins.