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NGO Svayam to enable greater participation of disabled community in Delhi elections

The national capital, New Delhi, goes to the polls on 12 May. Enabling the Election Commission of India (ECI) to live up to its promise to 'Leave No Voter Behind' is the NGO Svayam, a leading accessibility organization.

Founded by Sminu Jindal in 2000, Svayam is among the organizations credited with initiating the conversation around accessibility at a time when the needs of people with disabilities was largely neglected.

As an NGO partner of the ECI in the inclusive election campaign, Svayam has helped develop strategies and guidelines to ensure that voting stations are accessible for people with disabilities. It has also looked at ensuring that accessible toilets and transport facilities are provided.

Svayam has offered six accessible vans to the Chief Electoral Officer in partnership with four NGOs, namely Yes We Can, Family of Disabled, Muskaan and Astha,. These will be deployed in three constituencies in the West, South and South East, to make sure that people with reduced mobility are able to go to the polling booths and cast their vote. These vehicles will be provided free of cost as their contribution for ensuring accessible and inclusive elections in Delhi. - Sminu Jindal, Founder-Chairperson, Svayam

To ensure that information about these vans reaches all disabled voters, Svayam is also running a digital campaign called #YahanSeWahanTak. "The campaign also talks about the importance of voting and that lack of accessibility should not stop you from going out and practice your right, adds Jindal.

Given that the number of vehicles is just six, ensuring that a city like Delhi is adequately covered is not easy and Svayam has faced many challenges. The Delhi government has no accessible cars/vans etc. available either that can pick up people with reduced mobility from residential areas.

Preeti Johar, Chief Executive Officer, Family of Disabled, which is among the NGO partners of Svayam says the organization will use its van to cater to as many disabled people as possible.

"We are using one van and this will be for people with all types of disabilities. So far we have not received any request for the West Delhi region which is where we are registered. Depending on what the nodal officer tells us, we will dispatch the van.

NGO Muskaan too is waiting to hear from the election officer before deciding on where it will place the vehicle. "We have sent word to the ECI that we have a van available at Deragaon and we will be catering to voters in that constituency, says Seema Chaddha, Project Manager Muskaan. "Once the ECI gives us details, we will send the van to that area.

The largest number of vehicles have been allotted to the NGO Yes We Can but as of now it has no information from the ECI. "We are catering to Delhi South East, said Samuel Mani, of Yes We Can. "We can make the decision once we know.

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