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Chennai offers on-phone voter registration for disabled people

Voting is the right of every Indian citizen. The process begins with the registration for a voter ID that can be used by a person to cast his or her vote during the elections.

For people with disabilities, it is not always feasible to visit the enrollment offices due to physical hurdles and inconvenience. To ensure no one is left out, the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has decided to provide on-phone voter registration for people with disabilities.

The GCC has started a voter enrollment service for disabled people in the Chennai area. Disabled people can call the toll free number 1913 and request for their voter ID card or residential enrollment in the electoral list.

Once a person calls the number and submits details, booth level officers will visit his or her residence with a form 6 and register them in the electoral rolls.

The service is available for both existing voters as well first timers. The details of the callers will be kept confidential and safe.

I think this is a very good initiative for people with disabilities who wish to exercise their voting rights. Both old and fresh enrollments can be done through the toll free number and that will benefit a lot of people. Smitha Sadashivam, Accessibility Consultant at Election Commission of India

Chennai resident Gnana Bharathi, who works at the Central Leather Research Institute believes this is a good step towards inclusion. "The 1913 toll free calling service will make it easier for disabled people to enroll for voter ID. People with physical disabilities find it challenging to go to the registration offices."

However, the facility is limited to Chennai city limits and many disabled people have questioned this.

Lack of awarensss about this facility is another issue and many might miss out on the opportunity to register.

Raghuraman Kalyanaraman, Assistant Professor, Government Arts College in Nandanam and an accessibility champion raises some valid questions.

"I feel the facility fails to accommodate the hundreds of disabled people in villages and other remote areas. There are many people who cannot make a call, or are living in shelter homes and institutes. No clear framework has been made to include them in the process. There are no guidelines to ensure full participation of all the disabled people. If people are not able to make the call and register, will they be reminded about it by the authorities? Is anyone keeping record of how many people have registered and how many are left out?"

All valid questions which concerned authorities should consider.

Kalyanaraman also points to the need to sensitise the staff handling the 1913 calls about the challenges faced by people with disabilities.

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