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Voter Helpline in ISL aims to enable deaf voters make an informed choice

Here's some good news for deaf voters in India. There's now a mobile app called Voter Helpline in ISL available on Google Play Store. This is India's first such app and has been developed by Signex India LLP with funding from the Chief Election Commission, Punjab.

SIGNEX, which claims to the first and only consultancy firm in India offering total solutions in sign languages started working on the Voter Helpline in ISL app on 26 March 2019 and completed this in record time on 10 April. SIGNEX is asking the deaf community to download the app and share feedback.

The app offers information that would be useful to all voters like the system of voting followed, the election process, and also includes the latest election news updates. As of now, the information is available in English.

Deaf voters who use ISL are unable to access basic information about election-related frequency asked questions (FAQs). The SIGNEX team handpicked 40 most important FAQs that every Indian Deaf Voter must know from the 'Voter Helpline' app of the Election Commission of India. The 40 questions have been categorized into five different groups and all the information is presented in Indian Sign Language. - Sunil Sahasrabuddhe, Partner, SIGNEX

So, what kind of information can a deaf voter expect to find in the Voter Helpline in ISL app?

There are five categories and relevant questions are grouped under each category. For example: Voter category has questions that relate to the types of voters, electoral roll, how to register or remove yourself from the electoral roll, voter eligibility and disqualification and so on. There is also a question for every voter on why they should vote and the importance of participating in the electoral process.

Then, there's an EPIC category with questions related to the voter ID card, while the Polling Stationcategory has questions relevant to a voter's polling booth. There's also the EVM/VVPAT category with questions relevant to functioning and advantages of EVM and VVPATs. The last category General Information has questions relevant to officials and representatives appointed by Election Commission of India and the concept of postal ballot.

Enable, Empower, Inform

The aim of this project is to empower the Indian Deaf community, adds Sahasrabuddhe, "to understand their rights, roles and responsibilities during the 2019 parliament elections being held in India.

The launch of the app has been welcomed by the deaf community as timely and much needed. S Chandramouli, a civilian officer with the Indian Air Force in Bengaluru is a seasoned voter and hopes the app will take away some of the issues faced by the deaf community.

"I have been to the polling booth for about 20 years and at times I have felt uncomfortable while interacting with the poll staff because of lack of interpreting service. I'm forced to depend on writing materials for communication. I manage because it's a small issue for me but what about the 20 million deaf community in India?

Chandramouli adds that the app helps the deaf community understand their role as voters better but finds it "voluminous. "The Deaf may not watch each and every video. I wish this app to be brief and user-friendly. "

Pradeep More, General Secretary, State Level Association of the Deaf (SLAD), Maharashtra, found the information and videos in the app useful, but says it may not be that easily understood by everyone.

"There is a lot of information for the deaf community which is good. I would like to add that while the ISL videos are short with a short explanation which is good for deaf leaders or educated deaf people, but it is difficult for native signers or uneducated deaf people to understand these videos. A little more explanation with examples will help everyone in the deaf community understand, says More.

Zamir Dhale, a Senior Advocacy Officer with Sense International and a deaf-blind person, believes the app will enable greater participation by the deaf community in the 2019 elections. "It is a great that Deaf will be empowered and educated to participate. The government of India should respect deaf rights and I am happy to see the good work SIGNEX is doing.

Nazim Bagwan, a deaf teacher from Latur, Maharashtra, is positive as well. "I liked this app very much. There is good use of technology and this will enable more deaf people to understand the voting process and take part in the elections."

So, don't miss the opportunity to make your vote count. Visit https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.app.islvoterhelpline to download the app.

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