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Kerala government starts initiatives for inclusive elections

With the national election just months away, the Kerala government has gone into overdrive to ensure that voters with disabilities can get to polling booths with little hassle. Key to this exercise is getting the numbers right and authorities are carrying out a census of the number of disabled voters to ensure there are vehicles available to transport them from their homes to the polling booths.

Such moves have been well received across Kerala. All voters with disabilities, be they wheelchair users or with speech and vision disabilities will be provided with facilities. Authorities are getting the accurate numbers with the help of records from the Social Justice department.

Basheer Mamburam is a member of the All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation, one of the biggest NGOs working in the disability space. Mamburam, who is based in Malappuram, said that they are looking to improve upon the existing facilities for disabled voters.

Last year, for the by-elections, we ensured that all the polling booths are made accessible and disabled-friendly. All the booths had wheelchair ramps and disabled voters were glad that this could be implemented and all of them could vote without any hassles. This year too, we are looking forward to that. The Election Commission has chosen three of us to be part of their team to assess accessibility features because only wheelchair users would know what they need. - Basheer Mamburam, All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation

Revenue authorities will take the census of disabled people in each place, their needs and requirements and how to get them to the polling booths. They will also ensure ambulance services for paralysed people.

According to reports, there are over 5,000 disabled people in each district in Kerala. This is a sizeable number and therefore their votes count.

"This year, the EC is ensuring that we have accessible elections. That is a great initiative. They even chose disabled people from each district as brand ambassadors to promote elections. Last by elections were successful as accessible elections. Hope this year is going to be a great one too", says Jomy Joseph, a leading disability rights activist.

Hopefully this initiative will lead to greater participation from the disabled voters in this election.

ALSO READ: No approval for buildings in Kerala without accessibility features

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