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VAADA app promises to make voting accessible in Telangana for people with disabilities

Good news for voters with disabilities in Telangana. In a major step towards making the voting process accessible, Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat released VAADA, the Voter Accessibility App for Differently Abled in Hyderabad on Tuesday.

VAADA, which means a promise, is a joint of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and the Election Commission of India (ECI).

VAADA makes voting convenient as well as increase the accessibility factor. The app has text, voice and a Geographic Information System (GIS) interface. The interface has been included keeping in mind the challenges of persons with disabilities. It helps to locate the user.

VAADA can be downloaded from Google play store. The user has to enter their mobile number, type of disability and the assistance required. These details can be filled in text and is also voice enabled. This means the user does not have to type.

Once the user enters the details, the location details are captured using coordinates. Geo-referenced maps showing the 3000 plus polling booth locations in the 15 constituencies are linked to the app.

Disability rights activists say VAADA will reduce many of the inconveniences faced by voetsr on polling day.

I believe mobile app will help them go to the right polling booths. They will also get a better insight into whom they would want to vote. Usually, disabled people have to get help of others when they go to vote. Hopefully this new app will make them do it independently. - Sai Baba Goud, Founder, Devnar Foundation for the Blind, Telangana & Andhra Pradesh

The locations of disabled people will be geo-tagged to the specific polling stations to enable transport, attendants at the preferred time.

VAADA is just one in a series of measures launched by the EC to make voting truly inclusive in the coming elections. It has plans to print voter ID cards in Braille, teach sign language to officials, etc. Measures that have been welcomed by disabled voters, for whom the exercise so far has a difficult one. The biggest challenge, as Roopa Rajendran, a wheelchair user in Chennai points out, is the inaccessibility at various levels at the polling booth itself.

"Getting to the booth is so difficult," says Rajendran, who is the Co-founder, of NGO Yetram, which reaches out to people with muscular dystrophy. "There are no ramps to take the wheelchair up and even the counters are placed so high, it is hard to reach the machine. The booths are also quite small and it is hard to navigate the wheelchair inside."

Complaints the EC has promised to address in the next round of elections.

ALSO READ: Election Commission walks the inclusion talk, trains officials in Indian Sign Language

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