BHUBANESWAR: Despite the Election Commission of India making inclusion of the differently-abled and barrier free elections a priority, only one-tenth of differently-abled voters in Odisha have been enrolled in the electoral roll, a study has revealed.The field study was conducted by Swabhiman and Odisha State disABILITY Network on number of Persons with Disability (PwD) voters in Odisha and facilities available for them at polling booths during the General Elections 2019, which will be held in the State in four phases starting April 11.
It has found that the 4.7 lakh differently-abled persons enrolled in the voters’ list are only one-tenth of Odisha’s total PwD population. As per the World Report on Disability-2015, PwDs constitute 15 percent of the State’s total population which accounts to around 70 lakh. Over 40 lakh or 60 per cent of them are eligible to vote.
“The 2019 elections was an opportunity for us to include more eligible differently-abled persons in the electoral roll through special initiatives. However, the enrolment of PwD voters has been done according to the 2011 Census which put the State’s total differently-abled persons at 12.44 lakh,” said Sruti Mohapatra, CEO of Swabhiman and chief convener of Odisha State disABILITY Network.
With a large number of polling booths lacking basic facilities for physically challenged voters, the efforts of ECI to make the General Elections accessible may not yield the desired results, she said. “In the absence of adequate awareness drive, most of the differently-abled voters do not know about the Accessible Elections campaign,” Mohapatra said.
The study indicated that no Accessible Elections Committee has been formed at the district level in the State till date and 90 per cent differently-abled voters are not aware of the usage of voting machines, printing of EPIC (Electors Photo Identity Card) with Braille, accessible photo voter slips and free transport facility to booths on the day of polling.
Most polling booths also lack sign language windows, accessible toilets, ramps to access the voting room and sufficient wheelchairs. The findings also stated that ramps in most schools, which have been earmarked as polling stations, are broken. Mohapatra urged the Chief Electoral Officer of Odisha Surendra Kumar to address these issues before the elections. She also urged all political parties to provide scope to differently-abled persons to contest the elections.
PwDs left out of list
15 pc or 70 lakh PwDs form part of the State’s total population
40 lakh PwDs eligible to vote
4.7 lakh differently-abled persons enrolled in the voters’ list