Staff Reporter

Rights group wants a committee set up for the cause

Election Commission asked to make arrangements for providing ramps in all polling stations EC has also proposed introduction of Braille Signage features in electronic voting machines

CHENNAI: A committee should be appointed to made sure that all polling booths in the State are on the ground floor and fitted with ramps for a barrier-free election, said office-bearers of the Disability Rights Group (DRG).

Last week, district election officers were asked by the Election Commission to make arrangements for providing ramps in all polling stations in the State. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Naresh Gupta instructed that in case any polling station was not on the ground floor, it must be relocated. The EC had also proposed the introduction of Braille Signage features in electronic voting machines for visually impaired electors in two constituencies in Chennai district.

According to B. Meenakshi of DRG, a state-wide network of various associations of the disabled, a committee comprising activists and the disabled should be entrusted to monitor whether the instructions are being followed at the polling booths.

"The Supreme Court had directed the Maharashtra Government in 2004 to make election processes accessible so persons with various disabilities can exercise their franchise," said Ms. Meenakshi who is with the Disability Legislation Unit (DLU) of Vidya Sagar.

Out of the eight demands the group had presented to the EC and CEO, action has been initiated to put in place only two, said Simma Chandran, general secretary of the Federation of Tamilnadu Handicapped Association. "We want EVMs with Braille symbols in all polling booths. Election observers should also give audit reports on the accessibility features at all booths at least a couple of days before the date of polling to make improvements if necessary," said S.S. Smitha of DLU.

Activists from the Human Rights Law Network said they would monitor present arrangements at polling booths. "We will move the courts if they are unsatisfactory," added lawyer Kannaiyyan.

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