CHENNAI: When 40-year-old Joby Mathew, an international arm wrestler, wanted to cast his vote for the first time, he almost had to give up because of the inaccessibility of the polling booth to people with disability. But determined to vote, Mathew, who is severely under-developed, exercised his franchise with the help of friends. But still after many years, the voting experience for people with disability in India is the same, particularly in rural areas, says Mathew, who has won 18 gold medals for India at international tournaments.
He was one among the many achievers who shared their experience at the ‘Adding Leaders-Breaking Barriers’, an event organised by Adding Smiles Foundation for the inclusion of the people with disability into mainstream of society and in the election process, on Saturday. Mathew made an appeal to the officials present on the occasion including A Sivagnanam, joint chief electoral officer, T S Krishnamurthy, former chief election commissioner and A R Lakshmanan, former judge of Supreme Court, to introduce postal voting for people with disability.
Krishamurthy said the Election Commission has worked with IITs and examined the online voting options for senior citizens and people with disability as early as 2004 Lok Sabha polls. However, online voting will be a reality in another 10-15 years, he assured. There are concerns but EC has to put in place safeguards for the implementation of online voting. “It can be tried on a small scale perhaps during a by-election. But it is possible only in the urban areas now as it might not be feasible to try this out in rural belts where the illiterate population is large,” Krishnamurthy said.
Again, the law should be amended to include people with disability as eligible candidates to vote through postal voting which needs a policy decision, he said. But for that, EC should find the percentage of people with disability in the country. The officials highlighted the facilities set up for people with disability in the election process and encouraged those with disabilities to exercise their fundamental right to vote.