Chennai bypoll fails disabled voters even after detailed access audit by groups
People with disabilities faced a hard tome casting their votes at a crucial bypoll to the R K Nagar constituency. This is even after a detailed disability access audit a few days before the poll.
Critical facilities for disabled voters absent
The problems were many, ranging from inaccessible ramps, lack of Tamil Braille sheets and absence of handrails.
Disability rights activists said that proper and appropriate training was not given to volunteers on accessible infrastructure. The ramps were steep in many booths and even those that were modified did not reach the required standards.
Disability access audit done by 4 groups just weeks before election
There were other issues as well. The ramps were inaccessible due to surfaces being uneven, and the lack of kerb ramps were limitations as well.
Blind voters faced the most difficulty even after submitting a 11-point guideline to the Election Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner. They had asked for special lighting but this was nor provided and the quality of Braille sheets was very poor.
For one, Braille was not available in Tamil and even what was provided was of such poor quality that blind voters were unable to detect the candidates' numbers. The EVMs were not numbered and symbols were not properly named either.
The good news was that wheelchairs were available in all polling booths and signage of priority queue and yellow posters were stuck in all the booths.
The accessibility audit was conducted in December by four disability rights organisations - Disability Rights Alliance India (DRAI), December 3 movement, Maathi Yosi and Udavikkaram, along with volunteers from Bhumi.