THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: On Tuesday, as the state goes to the polls, thousands of disabled voters in the district are also gearing up to exercise their franchise. The Chief Electoral Office has issued directions to ensure the election is disabled-friendly. Officers are also leaving no stone unturned by providing special provision for Persons with Disabilities and constructing temporary ramps along with pick up and drop facilities. Braille ballots have also been guaranteed to help voters.
According to statistics released by the Chief Electoral Office, there are around 1,35,753 disabled voters in the state with around 6,872 in Thiruvananthapuram district including the Attingal constituency. According to the Election Commission, every person with a disability should be given transportation to the respective polling stations.
“This time, we are not only providing ramp facilities but also transportation for the disabled people. A survey has been conducted and a list has been prepared regarding people with disabilities who require transportation,” said Priyanka G, assistant collector. So far, 2,680 people with disabilities have been identified.
For visually-impaired voters, companions will be arranged to assist them during the elections. Ramp facilities will be made available in all polling stations.
Doubts still linger
However, despite measures undertaken by the officers, several voters who fall under the disabled category, are doubtful about the success of the initiatives. They expressed uncertainty whether the facilities such as ramps provided to them in polling stations can be fully utilised by them.
“Some years ago, we didn't have any facility to exercise our voting rights due to lack of transportation facilities and ramps. Now, the scenario has changed as ramps are available in polling stations. The initiative to provide transportation and ramps is a positive measure. However, sometimes authorities fail to implement the ramps in a scientific manner, which might be a hindrance to the wheelchair-bound voters,” said George K Thomas from Nalanchira, who is also a differently-abled voter.
According to him, ramps are supposed to be constructed in a 1:3 ratio. Most of the times, such factors are not taken into consideration, proving the facility useless, he said.
Sindhu Sudevan, president, All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation, Thiruvananthapuram said authorities should also ensure the disabled voters are given a drop-off facility. "Ward members visited us to enquire about those who would require transportation to the polling station. In many cases, a pick-up facility is provided but drop-off is not ensured," she said.