Volume 3 Issue 14 - July 15, 2005

EC fails to make Goa bye-poll disabled-friendly; Disability groups may file contempt

DNIS News Network – The recent Goa Assembly bye-poll was unfriendly for people with disabilities with ramps and Braille facilities mostly missing at polling booths, despite a notice to local electoral authorities by the Chief Electoral Officer ahead of these elections.

These failures had been highlighted by almost the entire disability sector, which had launched a campaign ahead of the polls, in the State.

Against this clear violation of the Supreme Court Order of 19 April 2004 for making polling booths accessible, the disability groups have written to the Joint Chief Electoral Officer, alleging that “despite orders no ramps were installed at polling booths nor was there Braille facility on the Electronic Voting Machines thus causing inconvenience to disabled voters.”

The letter goes on to add: “This amounts to denying them their fundamental right to vote with dignity but also contravening the Supreme Court and Mumbai High Court orders in this regard.”

Avelino de Sa, President Disability Rights Association of Goa (D.R.A.G.), one of the signatories to the letter said: “We were shocked to note that some polling stations were even on the first floor.”

It must be highlighted here that D.R.A.G. had written to the Chief Electoral Officer asking for instillation of voting machines with Braille and wooden ramps at polling booths, allowing visually impaired and physically disabled voter to be accompanied by a companion ahead of 2 June assembly bye-polls for five seats.

Following this timely intervention, the State Election Commission had issued notices to make all polling booths barrier free, and instillation of Electronic Voting Machines (E.V.M.s) equipped with Braille. But these efforts ultimately proved fruitless as even the basic facility of accessible polling booths was not ensured.

The letter, with the other two signatories being Father Valeriano Vaz of Caritas- Goa and Ehrlich de Sousa of N.G.D.A.A., says if arrangements for ramps and Braille were not made at the forthcoming elections in Goa “we will be forced to file a Public Interest Litigation (P.I.L.) in this matter.

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