Officials still blind to voting needs of disabled?
Demand for form-7A to be made available as text document to help visually-challenged still pending
CHENNAI: Activists for differently-abled persons have been struggling for five years to make form-7A on the election commission website accessible to visually-challenged citizens to cast their vote independently.The document, which contains details of the candidate’s name, photo, party, symbol and other details is currently available as an image document on www.elections.tn.gov.in.
The image cannot be accessed by visually-challenged voters on the screen. If available as a text document, screen readers can read out the form to visually-challenged individuals to communicate the displayed text, thereby giving them access to cast their vote.
“This is a move that requires no time or cost. Delhi CEO had made the gazette accessible to such individuals two years ago. At least this can be implemented here,” said Vaishnavi Jayakumar of Disability Rights Alliance, India. The Braille print out of form-7A at every booth is mostly available in English and not in Tamil, she added. Moreover, the population that can read Braille has been shrinking due to the availability of other technology aids that can convert text to speech.
“Now, if someone doesn’t understand Braille, they would have no option other than letting another person assist them and cast their vote,” said Vaishnavi. However, in this mode, there is no way of knowing if the assisting person has indeed cast their vote for the candidate picked by the said voter. Responding to such claims, the ECI accessibility officer on Monday said the constituency-wise list of candidates in order, can be accessed from affidavit.eci.gov.in. “Not many people are aware of this list,” the officer said. “Officials have promised that a soft copy of the form will be made available soon,” Vaishnavi said.