The Election Commission of India has made special provisions for People with Disabilites, such as Braille ballots, mobile apps for assistance, construction of temporary ramps, pick-up and drop facilities, etc. to help voters turn out in large numbers.
As India votes in the 17th Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission of India has taken several steps to ensure more people come out and vote.
By initiative of the EC, Army troops deployed along the LoC and Siachen were asked to download ballot papers, vote, and post it to their respective electoral returning officers. The ECI in BTM layout poll booth in Bangalore South constituency has made a provision for virtual queues to help voters get minute-by-minute update about their polling booth.
The election commission has also come up with special provisions such as braille ballots, a mobile app for assistance, construction of temporary ramps, pick-up and drop services from cab aggregators such as Uber and Ola Cabs, and training booth-level officers in sign languages to help people with disabilities. According to SS Nakul, Additional Commissioner, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bengaluru South, says, PwDs are generally left out during the elections because of inadequate provisions at the poll booths. Hence, this move was taken to showcase that even PwDs can come here and vote.Over 18,000 PwDs voted from Hyderabad, and 900 voted in Meghalaca on april11.In Bangalore South constituency alone, there are 1,165 voters who will be assisted by 660 volunteers spread across the polling booths. During the Karnataka Assembly Elections, the turnout of the differently-abled voters stood at 76 percent.
With an aim to make information and registration procedure easier, the ECI also launched the ‘PwD’ app. The Android app is designed specifically for first-time voters or for those who want to avail the facilities on polling day.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, the ECI had initiated several measures that made the registration process voter-friendly. This included Braille signage on the ballot unit of EVM, construction of ramps, provision for PwDs to enter polling stations without waiting in the queue, and facility to take wheelchairs inside polling stations. Despite these elaborate preparations, the voters faced a difficult time.
Hope for inclusion
Arman Ali the executive Director of National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People, says while the provisions by the ECI is applaud able, a lot more needs to be done, and that political parties too need to adopt an inclusive attitude.
According to Ali In the first phase of elections, we have seen a lot of gaps. Accessibility of polling booth is an urban phenomenon. And besides one political party, there is nothing promising in the manifesto. Disability continues to remain a lip service and they need to move disability from welfare to development agenda.
Despite of all this70 million persons with disabilities in India remain excluded from all rights-based discourses, other human rights movements, and mainstream development agenda.
Irrespective of the political party, Ali hopes the incoming government and society at large would view persons with disabilities through the lens of their ability, and not disability.