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All eyes on Chhattisgarh, India's 1 state to implement new accessible voting guidelines

The coming Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh will be the litmus test for the Election Commission of India (ECI). This will be the first state to implement the various measures put into place by the EC to make the polling process disabled-friendly.

What makes this different is that for the first time, Sugam Election Accessibility Observers will be appointed to overlook the voting process and help people with disabilities vote during elections.

In his various media interactions, Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat has underlined the various steps taken. "All polling premises will have sturdy ramps for voters in wheelchairs. A database of disabled voters is being created and such electors would be enrolled and their list shall be provided to booth-level officers so that they can be given special assistance."

Steps that have been welcomed by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), which was the first to raise the call for accessible elections as far back as 2004.

We at NCPEDP salute the ECI for making the representation and participation of persons with disabilities a reality! We hope that all ministries and departments take the cue and create a core group on accessibility and inclusion so that all programmes have the rights of persons with disabilities embedded from the very inception. It is also a great way to capture data on persons with disabilities so policymakers become aware of the enormity of the situation. - Som Mittal, Chairman, NCPEDP

The ECI had launched a strategic framework on Accessible Elections earlier this year at the end of a two-day national level consultation. Among the many measures announced was:

  • Printing of photo ID cards with Braille
  • Accessible communication awareness materials
  • A mobile phone app to motivate & educate the voters
  • Appointment of Disability Coordinates at the Assembly constituency, district and State levels.
  • Step by step training on accessibility to poll officials
  • Set up auxiliary polling stations
  • Provide accessible photo voter slips
  • Sign-language window in all audio visual training and advertisement content material for deaf people.
  • Free transport facility to people with disabilities and their assistants.

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