Wheel chairs, ramps for disabled voters this Lok Sabha election

Wheel chairs, ramps for disabled voters
New Delhi, March 20: Delhi's over 80,000 disabled voters, including the visually challenged and hearing impaired, will get special attention on April 10, the day the national capital casts ballots for the Lok Sabha polls.

In a first, each of the 11,763 polling stations in the national capital will have a sign language expert on stand by to aid the hearing impaired, election commission officials told IANS.

Wheel chairs and ramps were introduced in earlier elections to aid the disabled voter but this time the election officials will ensure better care and attention, said Chief Nodal Officer, Delhi Election Commission, Ankur Garg.

Similar arrangement are likely to be in effect around the country but the Delhi Election Commission is pioneering some special initiatives for the capital. It has roped in 11 NGOs working for the disabled to ensure the arrangements for voting are a smooth affair.

"Unlike the previous general elections, this time we want to address all the problems and short comings confronted by the disabled while casting their vote," Garg told IANS.

He said the poll panel will launch a training session for electoral and Delhi Police officials to sensitise them on the problems faced by the disabled during vote casting.

"We will train the officials using videos projecting the special care the visually impaired, deaf and dumb and the physically handicapped people need," Garg told IANS.

He said the commission will also encourage disabled voters to vote by launching a 'motivational campaign'.

"The disabled face severe problems standing in the long queue and often get confused while casting their vote in the Electronic Voting Machine due to similarity in the party symbols. We will also ensure adequate number of braille ballot papers for the visually impaired in every polling booth," said Garg.

The official said they will arrange wheel chairs for each of the polling stations and ensure that the disabled "get a smooth ride till the balloting cubicle".

"We are going to take wheel chairs on hire and have urged hospitals and disabled care centers to rent us the wheel chairs on the day of polls," Garg told IANS.

"We will have properly trained officials and sign language experts in each polling station to inform disabled voters about the different party symbols and clear their confusion on how to vote," he added.

The chief electoral office of Delhi website has been modified and made accessible for the visually impaired, he said.

The election commission is also going to put up stickers and posters in sign language and symbols to indicate the difference between the party symbol and instructions to be followed while voting, Garg added.

The Election Commission is to also seek assistance from social welfare departments of the Delhi and central governments to ensure that arrangements for the disabled are up to the mark.

After the polls, a social audit will be carried out by the poll panel and if any of the personnel, NGOs, Delhi Police officials or those deployed to help the disabled are found violating the rules, they will face "severe consequences", he said.

The punishment may even include suspension.

"Such arrangements for the disabled has become mandatory following the Supreme Court's direction to provide special facilities for the disabled during the polls", said Garg.

Delhi has seven Lok Sabha seats.


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