WITH FOUR states, including West Bengal, going to polls from next month, the Election Commission (EC) has decided to make the electoral process more accessible for persons with disabilities. The move comes months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed concern for the differently-abled on Mann ki Baat and suggested referring to them as ‘divyangs’.
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The EC has instructed Chief Electoral Officers of all the states and Union Territories to prepare polling station-wise lists of persons with disabilities from data collected from Census, departments of social justice and empowerment, women and child welfare and Samagra Yojana. After obtaining the information, the process for including names of eligible voters whose names are not on the electoral roll will be initiated.
The EC has directed officials to ensure that disabled persons are not required to wait in queue for voter registration and to cast their votes.
It has decided that visually-impaired voters shall be conveyed through voice SMSes information like the status of registration, name and number of polling station, serial number in voters’ list, the Assembly constituency they are registered in, the voter ID number and the polling schedule.
The EC has further directed that depending on the number of disabled voters under a polling station, facilities like ramps, tricycle and basic information through audio-video should be made available. Priority entry passes shall be issued to them and wheelchairs be provided.
In constituencies with a large number of disabled persons, special polling stations may be set up, following a proposal from the district and chief electoral officers.
To spread awareness among disabled voters, the EC has directed that publicity material in sign language and Braille in regional languages be prepared.
Special training sessions shall be organised to sensitise the election machinery about the needs of disabled voters, the EC has said. The EC has also directed chief electoral officers to encourage political parties for preparing publicity material in audio-video format, Braille and sign language.
UP’s chief electoral officer Arun Singhal said voters’ slips may also be printed in Braille for the convenience of visually-impaired voters.
He added that disabled voters would be identified by booth-level officers during the door-to-door survey for revision of electoral rolls.
The EC has also said that data of persons with disabilities shall not be displayed online and should not be shared so as to maintain their privacy.
As these instructions have been sent to CEOs of all the states, the same will apply in the upcoming polls in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Puducherry.