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Activists Empower Disabled Voters


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Activists Empower Disabled Voters

as reported in Indian Express | Sep 22, 2008


Mumbai, September 21 Despite existing laws on the right to accessible polling locations, people with disabilities are unable to exercise their franchise during elections.


However, with the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, activists for disability rights from across the country — 40 non-governmental organisations along with 15 Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) lawyers —congregated in Mumbai for the launch of a nationwide campaign. A two-day seminar to provide information to people with disabilities about their voting rights as well as facilities that exist to enable them to vote with ease kick-started the campaign.


Representatives from Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and many other states participated in the seminar, except the hilly regions where elections for the general public is itself an issue.”


As per the conservative estimate, seven per cent of the Indian population is disabled which is a sizeable number. However, scant regard is given to them both by the political parties and the Government when it comes to implementing Supreme Court directives to enable them to vote.


Elections have come and gone but each poll leaves a familiar aftertaste for the disabled - denial of their basic right to vote due to inadequate arrangements and facilities,” said Rajiv Ratouri, National Director, HRLN. Disability right groups have laid down various strategies for the campaigns in their states.

“In the year 2007, in his letter to the Supreme Court, the Election Commissioner had given an assurance that all the necessary arrangements will be made.


He had also issued notices to all the state election commissions to implement the law. We have filed right to information application to monitor the work in progress. At the national level we have urged individual state NGOs and human rights activists to file RTIs and Public Interest Litigations,” said Ratouri.


According to the Bombay High Court orders and other high courts, every polling booth should have ramps, Braille for visually impaired to cast their votes. Persons with disabilities will not be required to stand in queues, disabled voters will be allowed facility of a companion of their choice to assist them in entering the booth and in casting their vote and assistance should be provided by the staff on duty to escort the voter on a wheel chair inside the booth.


Casting one’s vote takes very little time but this act has great ramifications on the disabled - it is all about being visible and being...


Activists empower disabled voters

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