DNIS News Network -- Disability Rights Group activists have expressed deep disappointment with the response of the Election Commission to demands to make polling booths fully accessible in the Lok Sabha elections.
DRG met with the Election Commissioner and presented a list of demands, including the provision of ramps and Braille signage at polling stations and was hoping for a positive response.
However, when the EC did issue a directive, it fell far short of hopes and expectations. It indicated that ramps should be provided only "wherever possible" providing a large loophole, which polling station officials can use in order to do nothing to improve access for disabled voters.
DRG Convener Javed Abidi summed up the feelings of the group: "We are sick and tired. There is nothing new in this circular. It is similar to the letter by the commission in 1998." He also highlighted the unsatisfactory nature of the allowance for visually impaired voters to take an escort with them when casting their vote: "Every visually impaired person should be allowed to exercise the right of secret ballot. It was very easy for them to put Braille numbers on the electronic voting machines."
The EC circular failed to address the majority of points raised by the DRG and as such has been dismissed as "too little too late". Abidi added, "The first phase of elections is about to start; let's see where all the ramps come up."