With just a day to go for the elections, activists working for the disabled are worried the polling stations are not disabled friendly enough.
Till Tuesday evening, ramps had not been commissioned at most of the polling stations. The activists will inspect the stations on Wednesday but are worried if work to make them barrier free will be completed on time.
The Election Commission had instructed the district election office to provide ramps at all polling stations, small benches for dwarves to access the ballot unit, Braille ballot papers, arrange for separate queues for persons with disabilities and make provisions to allow companions for blind and infirm voters.
“There is no mechanism for enabling the disabled from institutions to vote. Around 5,000 persons in the State are in various institutions. Progressive aspects such as e-voting have not been made possible yet,” said Meenakshi Balasubramanian, from Equals, an NGO.
“We are just talking about ramps. There is a need for changing the way elections are held. There are no Braille pamphlets or sign language interpreters at campaigns,” she said.
“Police personnel should not stop vehicles of the disabled 200 metres away from the polling stations,” said T.A.P. Varadakutti, president of Tamil Nadu Udavikaram Association for the Welfare of the Differently Abled.
Activists also pointed to the need for removing barriers to movement of persons with disability on the way to polling stations, instead of just providing ramps at polling stations.
“Polling stations located in government schools and buildings have ramps. Most of the private schools do not have such structures. We will create ramps in all buildings on Wednesday,” said an official of the district election office.