Makeshift ramps, poll booths bereft of handrails await disabled voters in Chennai

Only temporary and makeshift ramps are installed in some of the polling stations. Even those booths that have proper ramps lack handrails.
Entry ramps and pathways are among the basic facilities required for PwD. However, only temporary and makeshift ramps are installed in some polling stations
Entry ramps and pathways are among the basic facilities required for PwD. However, only temporary and makeshift ramps are installed in some polling stations(Photo | Express)

CHENNAI: An accessible election for voters with disabilities, in all likelihood, won’t be completely achieved this time too as many polling booths in Chennai have failed to arrange the minimum facilities mandated in this regard by the Election Commission of India. The hasty ‘upgrades’ to improve accessibility at some of the polling booths have also raised eyebrows.

An accessibility audit undertaken by the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA) had found lapses regarding facilities to ensure accessibility, in polling booths across the three Parliamentary constituencies in Chennai. TNIE also visited the booths to observe the works underway ahead of the polling day.

Entry ramps and pathways are among the basic facilities required for Persons with Disabilities (PwD) to exercise their franchise. However, only temporary and makeshift ramps are installed in some of the polling stations. Even those booths that have proper ramps lack handrails.

“The whole objective of making polling booths accessible is to facilitate PwD partake in the electoral process without relying on anyone. The ramps need to be in a 1:12 ratio. However many of the newly constructed ramps are very steep. A lot of the polling booths have more than two steps at the entryway and this will prove very difficult for the disabled,” said Gnana Bharathi of the DRA.

In one of the polling booths at the Corporation Higher Secondary School in Velachery, a wooden slab has been placed on concrete debris and is designated to be used as a ramp for disabled voters. The booth at the government girls’ higher secondary school in Chetpet has ramps but no handrails. These ramps will be inaccessible to those who use crutches. The paver blocks laid on the pathway leading to the polling booths are also uneven.

“There is an election every two years in Tamil Nadu. Many of these polling booths are permanent and are used in every election. Permanent structural changes should be made to these centres instead of makeshift arrangements,” says activist Vaishnavi Jayakumar of the DRA. 

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