City-based think tanks have submitted a report to the Election Commission saying elections in India are unfriendly to people with disabilities.
The report, by the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) and Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR), says there are several legal barriers that hinder the involvement of people with disabilities in elections.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that India is home to 150 million people with disabilities. While the Constitution of India and the Representation of People Act, 1951, gives people with disabilities the right to vote, the report says the community remains excluded from polling largely because of the inaccessibility of the physical environment of polling and lack of easily-available electoral information.
Dr Nirmita Narasimhan, policy director of CIS and one of the authors of the study, says, “The report is based on feedback from the disabled. It would be nice if the Election Commission makes it easy for them to vote.”
She said registration of voters with disabilities has not been completed because there have been too few attempts to reach out to them.
The report concludes with recommendations to make the electoral process more inclusive. The suggestions include ensuring complete registration of voters with disabilities, use of technology to this end, training and sensitising voters with disabilities and improving information accessibility and election monitoring.
The report also inludes the results of a test conducted on the information accessibility in websites of EC and major political parties. The test revealed that most of the websites don’t conform to standards of web accessibility and are not disabled-friendly.
Steps Taken for Fair Polling: JHA
Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha told Express that the Election Commission has instructed polling officers to ensure fair treatment to people with special needs. He said, “We have instructed polling officers to provide entry to specially-challenged people on priority. The visually-impaired can take a companion above the age of 18 to the polling booth for help. The electronic voting machines have Braille stickers on their side. If the voters know the serial number of the candidate, they can vote on their own.” He added that a ramp will be set up wherever feasible.