To ensure that all polling booths are accessible for the 2019 elections, a state level consultation on accessible and inclusive electoral process for the differently-abled took place on Saturday at the Greater Chennai Corporation’s headquarters.
The concept of accessibility – which means a pathway without impediments – stays at the official level, often failing to trickle down to the ground staff, implementing the projects.
“During the RK Nagar bypolls, there were ramps in all the polling booths. However, either there was a step before the ramp or a bump after that. The provision of a ramp on its own will not ensure accessibility – tackling the other impediments too are key to the concept,” said Smitha Sadasivan, a member of the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA), who had participated in the consultation. Smitha said that in the 2016 elections too, 80% of the booths had a ramp.
“The knowledge dispersion among the ground staff is crucial. If the standards of accessibility, as laid down by the Indian Government’s Ministry of Urban Development, is implemented, it could go a long way in ensuring accessibility,” said Smitha.
Vaishnavi Jayakumar, another member of DRA, stated, “Signature cards, audio facility in EVMs, audio toilets and online voting were some of the more optimistic suggestions mooted at a time when the basic, no-frills EVM is itself facing an unnecessary credibility crisis.”
For persons who are hearing impaired, there should be a sign language interpreter and alternate voting mechanism for the differently-abled was also discussed, said Smitha.
At the meeting, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Satyabrata Sahoo insisted on the need of all departments to collaborate on ensuring accessibility of the electoral process for the differently-abled. The district electoral officers of Virudhunagar, Kanchipuram and Dharmapuri in addition to Greater Chennai Corporation’s representative, presented the measures taken for accessible electoral process in their districts. The meeting was attended by V. Arun Roy, State Commissioner for the Differently Abled, Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan and officials from the Public Works Department (PWD) and Greater Chennai Corporation.