Disabled activist carried to first-floor polling booth by ‘5-6 men’, says accessible polls a shamhttps://indianexpress.com/elections/disabled-activist-carried-to-first-floor-polling-booth-by-5-6-men-says-accessible-polls-a-sham-lok-sabha-elections-2019-5691105/

Disabled activist carried to first-floor polling booth by ‘5-6 men’, says accessible polls a sham

Arman Ali, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, was taken aback when he arrived at a Guwahati polling booth during the Phase III of Lok Sabha election on Monday (April 23).

Disabled activist carried to first-floor polling booth by ‘5-6 men’, says accessible polls a sham
Arman Ali outside a Guwahati polling station on April 23. (Express photo)

Belying the government’s claims of conducting accessible elections and ‘no voter to be left behind’, a disabled activist had to be carried two flights of stairs when he went to vote. He termed the incident “shameful” and “humiliating”.

Arman Ali, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, was taken aback when he arrived at a Guwahati polling booth during the Phase III of Lok Sabha elections on Monday (April 23). The polling booth at Dakhin Sarania L P School was not on the ground floor but the first floor.

Ali said he hung around for two hours trying to figure out how to reach the booth — only to be told by polling officials to come around 4.30 pm when “some would be arranged and he would be lifted and carried upstairs”.

“It took me two hours in the sun and two visits to be able to cast my vote. I was carried along with my wheelchair by 5-6 men. It was a spectacle. I felt humiliated. It was shameful. Accessible elections are a sham. The fight is for the rights, dignity and inclusion of the disabled people. They cannot remain a subject of pity,” said Ali, who is the current Executive Director of the Delhi-based National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP).

Disabled activist carried to first-floor polling booth by ‘5-6 men’, says accessible polls a sham
Ali said he hung around for two hours trying to figure out how to reach the booth. (Express photo)

Disability rights advocate Vaishnavi Jayakumar said: “The Election Commission has declared that all polling booths are on the ground floor. But, according to our mapping, 15,000 booths are not on ground floor, 50,000 booths are without ramps. There are countless reports of booths having ramps but blockaded by barricading.”

Jayakumar adds that the polling booth where Ali voted was reported to be on the ground floor. “There is zero accountability at the local level. And until the Block Level Officers are made accountable for false and incomplete reports that all is well, progress will remain on paper.”

Avelino de Sa, president of Disability Rights Association of Goa (DRAG), too, said a disabled man had to lifted up the stairs at a Goa polling booth. Tweeting the man’s photo, he remarked: “Where is the dignity and RPWD (Rights of Persons with Disabilities) Act.”

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