Volume 2 Issue 7 - April 01, 2004

Disabled persons too want to vote

DNIS News Network - Lack of sensitivity by the Election Commission towards the impediments that disabled people face at polling booths has disappointed this sector.

"We have been requesting the Election Commission to make polling booths disabled-friendly so that these people too can come in large numbers to caste their votes. However, it is not happening," said Disabled Rights Group Convener Javed Abidi. "Time is running out. Is it not the duty of the Election Commission to ensure law and order at the polling booths for free and fair elections? But what about the rights of the disabled?" he asks.

Not willing to take this apathy any longer, members of the disability sector staged a dharna in front of the office of the Chief Election Commissioner on March 26 to highlight their problems. They even built ramps at the site to prove that doing so was neither costly nor time-consuming.

Abidi says that the commission has taken care to ensure that the election duty officials and Army men can caste their votes through postal or proxy voting. But several disabled people have to return home without casting their votes due to lack of accessibility at polling booths, he pointed out. Not only are the polling booths inaccessible for them, even the polling officers are not sensitive to the physically-disabled voter.

The DRG wants adequate ramps, signage boards and embossing on the electronic voting machines to help the physically and visually-impaired to caste their votes. There are about 7 crore disabled people in India, of whom about 5 crore are eligible to vote."

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