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Kozhikode Collectorate introduces facilities for accessible elections

Kozhikode, one of Kerala's biggest cities, is gearing up to vote on 23 April and the under the guidance and leadership of Collector Sambasiva Rao, many new facilities are being introduced for disabled voters.

In previous elections, family members or caregivers of people with disabilities, especially from economically backward families, had to hire vehicles to get to the polling booths. Once they arrived there, accessibility was often an issue. This time district officials are providing free transport facilities so they can get to the voting booth independently.

Prajith Jaipal, a wheelchair user from Kozhikode and founder of the NGO Divyang Foundation Trust, has been working with district officials to make this election as accessible as possible. A mock session was also recently.

We have given suggestions to officials on how to make elections disabled- friendly. This time, officials are confident on making elections smooth and easy for people with all kinds of disabilities. One of the main things that we highlighted was the need for wheelchair friendly bathrooms at polling booths. Most of the booths are at schools where the ramps are not even built according to the criterion, which is ratio of 12:1. Now, officials will have to look into re-working on it so that wheelchair users can access it. This is the first time that disabled people are getting priorities for elections. It is a great step towards inclusion. - Prajith Jaipal, Founder, Divyang Foundation Trust

The Collectorate has come up with a series of videos to highlight the importance of voting. At the booths, sign language interpreters will also be made available.

With the help of Anganwadi workers, district officials conducted a door-to-door survey of disabled people above 18 years of age. Over 33,314 disabled voters were identified in Kozhikode and officials are working towards providing facilities for them. Rao has also requested people to come forward and contribute towards buying wheelchairs so that more disabled people, who are stuck inside the homes, can come out and cast their votes.

"This is the first time that the government is doing so much to ensure inclusion in elections. Last year, in-built ramps were there. But I still needed help of someone to lift it up and cast vote. This year, officials are visiting polling booths and checking if all the facilities are introduced, says Rajalesh P, a wheelchair user.

This year, the government is ensuring an inclusive election. With all the facilities provided, it is the duty of every Indian citizen above 18 years of age to cast their votes in the upcoming elections.

ALSO READ: Election Commission's PwD App has a welcome update for visually impaired voters

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