NEW DELHI: Ahead of assembly polls in five states early next year, the Election Commission on Tuesday organised a virtual conference to assess the present accessibility policies and discuss strategies for addressing barriers to enhance participation of voters with disabilities in the polls.
Addressing the event, EC Secretary General Umesh Sinha pointed out that the national conference was organised at a time when the poll panel is preparing for the forthcoming state assembly elections.
Inputs received from various stakeholders, including chief electoral officers, will be incorporated in the planning and preparation for elections to be more accessible, inclusive and voter-friendly for people with disabilities and senior citizens, an official statement said.
Reaffirming the EC's commitment to make elections more inclusive, accessible, and voter friendly for people with disabilities, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said the Commission values the decision-making role of primary stakeholders -- the voters, including persons with disabilities, who can and should play a key role in electoral process.
The CEC noted that all the meaningful inputs and recommendations suggested by persons with disabilities and their representative organisations are taken into consideration while framing guidelines for enhancing inclusivity and accessibility at every step of the electoral process.
Chandra reiterated the EC's commitment in various international resolutions and mandates emphasising the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the electoral process.
He emphasised the need for pleasant and dignified polling experience to people with disabilities.
Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 provides for a legal mandate to ensure all polling stations to be made accessible for persons with disabilities and all material related to electoral process are easily understandable and usable by them.
He said the collective efforts of election officials and other stakeholders have contributed significantly in reaching out to a large number of electors with disabilities across the country, apart from building the electoral process accessible, safe and respectful for different population groups.
Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey emphasised on the need for community support systems to be strengthened by ways of advanced data processing, identifying community referral points and creating harmonised echo systems for specific citizens groups such as persons with disabilities and senior citizens.
As of today, about 77.4 lakh people with disabilities are registered voters.
Tuesday's deliberations focused on themes of identification and mapping of people with disabilities, accessible registration, facilitation at polling stations and efficient use of technology for accessible elections.