Make elections accessible, disability rights groups tells Election Commission of India
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has made inclusive elections a key priority of the upcoming national election. All efforts are being made to ensure people with disabilities who are eligible to vote, do so in a free and fair manner.
For instance recently in Bihar, the ECI made sure that polling booths are on the ground floor so that wheelchair users can go inside the booth using ramps. Mobile ramps have also beens et up to enable easy access.
Another step is the launch of a mobile app so that disabled people can register for pick up and drop facilities to polling booths. There are dummy ballot papers in Braille to create awareness about elections amongst visually impaired people.
Disability rights groups hope that all these measures will be introduced across India.
Professor Raghuraman, a disability rights activist in Chennai, hopes the ECI will go beyond just ramps.
It was the late Javed Abidi who spoke up for accessible elections. He has strived a lot to make this a reality. In 2005, the Supreme Court of India had ordered accessible elections to come into immediate effect. Unfortunately, even today, the ECI has not worked towards completing it. There is much to do like introducing tactile paths and railings etc. There are 21 types of disabilities mentioned in RPWD Act, 2016. Are all of them fulfilled? Do authorities even know what the requirements of these disabilities are? - Professor Raghuraman, Disability Rights Activist
Strong words but sentiments shared by people of various disability types. Dr Lyse Bin Muhammad of the All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation, says the ECI is moving in the right direction but lots more needs to be done.
"It is high time that the ECI takes accessible elections seriously. Disabled people also have the right to vote. More facilities must be introduced for those who are visually impaired and those with severe disabilities", says Muhammad.
Come May, the ECI will be tested on these promises. The disabled community too is closely watching to ensure the commission walks the talk.