Ramps, Braille-enabled EVMs, special queues demanded

For a vast majority of people from the constituency who are going to cast their votes in the Lok Sabha elections on April 24, the voting process is a breeze. Just walk up to a polling station near home and make your voice heard.

But it is not that easy for the physically and visually challenged people. Following a Supreme Court directive on a public interest litigation in April 2007, the Election Commission issued directions that ramps, Braille-enabled electronic voting machines and special queues must be in place.

“Till a decade ago, most physically challenged persons were not allowed to take their vehicles such as tricycles or motorcycles near the booths. Many of them had to crawl to the booths and the absence of ramps meant they had to be lifted with their wheelchairs into the polling booths,” said S. Bhoopathy, president of District Physically-challenged Welfare Association.

Collector and Returning officer L. Subramanian said on Sunday that measures were being taken in the Madurai Parliamentary constituency to erect temporary wooden ramps at all the polling booths.

Election officials said a separate cardboard sheet with details of candidates and the symbols should be provided with the candidate’s particulars in Braille, corresponding to their order in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). “There have been instances in the previous elections where these Braille reference sheets were not available. We relied on the person who escorted us to cast the vote for us,” said S. Pavunthai, a visually challenged teacher.

Many visually challenged persons want helpers to be posted at polling booths to explain them the polling process. “There are more persons with vision defects than those who are completely blind. They don’t know Braille and they definitely need help,” Ms. Pavunthai said.

V. Palaniappan, another visually challenged voter, who plans to exercise his franchise in the elections, said the EVMs with audio cue facility must be developed for them. “Though we are allowed to have escorts to help cast our votes, such a facility will greatly benefit us since we can go about the process on our own,” he said.

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