On National Voters Day, Karnataka government pledges accessible voting for everyone
National Voter's day on 25 January is a day dedicated to bringing together the youth to vote and take part in the political process. This year the focus was on disabled voters across many states with Karnataka taking the lead to introduce measures to make voting accessible to all, a major challenge given the inaccessibility of voting booths.
Take Dakshina Karnataka, where there are over 10,000 people with different kinds of disabilities. With national elections round the corner, the district administration is gearing up to ensure that all voters are able to vote without any hassles. This means voters can enrol their names seven days after election dates are announced. There is also a helpline number 1950 where voters can call in with questions.
This is being planned for cities like Bengaluru and Mangaluru as well which have a huge disabled population and the state government is not leaving any stone unturned to make sure that their needs are addressed.
Venkatesha Babu, a para sportsman from Gouribidanur is a regular voter and this year too, he is determined to make it count.
I feel Karnataka government has always been great to disabled voters. Till date, I have not faced any difficulties before or during voting. The staffs are helpful. In fact, they come home to take our details so that we do not have to face the trouble of going to government offices to enrol our names. Since I use wheelchair, I have easy access because most of the booths have wheelchair ramps. Have you noticed that most of the government buildings here also have wheelchair ramps? That shows how well our government in sensitive towards our requirements. By providing more facilities, Karnataka government are becoming torch bearers of inclusion. -Venkatesha Babu, Para sportsperson
But not everyone has such positive words to say. For some like Krishna Kumar, who lives in Bengaluru, it has been a rather inconvenient experience.
"I have been voting for the last two years. But the places that I have gone to were never accessible. They did not even have wheelchair ramps. Since my brother was there, he lifted me up and that is how I could cast my vote. But I hope that the government introduces something so that more disabled people can take part in elections. Also, they will be able to go independently", says Krishna Kumar, a wheelchair user from Bengaluru.
From Braille-enabled voters lips to wheelchair ramps at all polling booths, authorities are going all out to ensure that disabled voters participate. They will even be special privileges so they don't need to wait in queues. and need not. Will this work? The acid test will come on voting day.