Volume 4 Issue 8 - April 15, 2006

Assembly polls see debut of Braille-enabled E.V.M.s in Assam, but very few ramps

D.N.I.S. News Network- The recent polling for the Assam Assembly was a mixed affair for disabled people from the view point of access. Though very few ramps were seen at polling stations, use of Braille-enabled Electronic Voting Machines at Barhampur constituency allowed as many as 32 visually impaired voters to independently exercise their franchise.

According to Arman Ali, Project Coordinator of Disability Law Unit based in Guwahati, the first phase of voting on 2 April was largely inaccessible with very few polling booths being proved with ramps and the Election Commission failing to make any arrangement for visually impaired voters.

An indicative case of how frustrating the inability to vote can be was captured by a news channel that showcased a young wheelchair user who could not cast her vote due to an inaccessible terrain and absence of ramps at the polling booth.

Both before and during the polling phase, an intense pressure was built upon the authorities and the Election Commission to make sure that access provision for polling is ensured in conformity with the Supreme Court order. The advocacy efforts and media scrutiny seem to have had a positive impact with the Election Commission announcing a pilot project of using E.V.M.s in one constituency.

State Chief Electoral Officer J.P. Prakash told media that 32 visually impaired people exercised their franchise without the assistance of a companion. This is indeed a welcome development and can be seen as a positive pointer towards the polling in three other states.

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