22 Jan 2022  |   04:57am IST

Hoping for accessible voting this time

The elections are round the corner and Goans who are differently abled will hope the authorities provide facilities to make it a hassle free experience. A few people who are involved in fighting for the rights of those with disabilities expressed their views
Hoping for accessible voting this time

Ajit John

 

Th

e state elections are scheduled for next month. It is a very important aspect of the democratic process. It is an opportunity for everyone to make their voice known and give their view on the performance of the party in power. Every section of society makes it a point to participate. The differently abled in the state also make an attempt to participate in this exercise. According to conservative estimates in the state there are approximately around thirty thousand people with different disabilities living in the state. This is approximately two percent of the population. The election process is a complex administrative matter which requires coordination across the state. The needs of the people with disabilities are varied and have to be tackled to ensure they can participate in the process.

Vishant Nagvekar has been fighting for accessibility and other issues related to disability. He said the government had made claims that this time the polling booth would be accessible to people with disabilities. Vishant said “I have seen some work going on in certain places meaning polling booths like the construction of ramps. I however found that four of them had no proper gradient or handles. The government has to make requirements for the proper infrastructure. Ramps with gradients, parking availability with a reserved parking board and availability of wheel chairs at the booth have to be made available. In addition people have to be present to help senior citizens at the booth”. He said the number of disabilities recognized by the state had increased from seven to twenty one. People he said still think in terms of locomotive disability. Vishant said two major disabilities were ignored ie people with visual impairment and those with a hearing impairment. Vishant said people who were visually impaired needed instructions in Braille or audio instructions. Those who were visually impaired need sign language interpreters or staff at the booth need to be trained in the language. This would help make the booth more accessible. He went on to say the chief electoral officer should have a list of the hearing impaired and they should provide a session in sign language online to help them understand what needs to be done. He said the Chief Election officer Kunal had taken several good initiatives and he had organised several programs to generate awareness among st people with disability. Vishant expressed the hope everyone would be able to cast their vote this time thus guaranteeing a result that would be expression of the will of all the people. Finally he said arrangements were made for those with benchmark disabilities which was forty percent and above and senior citizens who were above eighty to cast their votes via postal ballot.

Kunal Thakur a student and who is differently abled said this year the government had introduced the facility to sit and home and vote for people like him. He said “Last week members of the election commission came home and asked if I wanted to vote at home or at the booth. I asked about the facilities available. I was told they would send a car and they had made arrangements for a ramp. I also learned I would be allowed to vote in absolute secrecy in a room without anyone gaining knowledge about who I voted for. Earlier there was a possibility your family members would know you were voting for. I have decided to go to the booth and cast my vote”. He as a resident in Arambol he had a list of twenty five people who were differently abled and the Election Commission were in the process of visiting them all to understand their needs. Asked what he would like to see happen he said facility to vote from home. Provide transportation facilities to the polling booth, ramp at the polling booth and importantly have a different section for the disabled and the geriatrics. He said the virus was very contagious and moving around very fast and older people had a greater chance of falling sick. This would make the entire experience a safer and pleasant affair.

Avelino d’sa of DRAG who has been fighting for the rights of the differently abled said he was looking forward to polling booths being made accessible and parking for vehicles in addition to accessible toilets and importantly Braille on the EVM. He said the authorities had done a good job so far and he was looking forward to seeing how it all worked out.

Attempts to contact officials of the election commission proved futile. One can only the system falls into place and this important section of society will be able to cast their votes peacefully and without much hassle.

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar