Aloysius Xavier Lopez
CHENNAI: As the symbol of political parties have not been provided in the Braille sheets of the electronic voting machines used in the Lok Sabha Elections 2009, persons with visual impairment have suggested inclusion of party symbols in Braille.
Aruna Devi, a person with visual impairment, says the symbols are important because persons with disability may also decide to vote based on symbols. “The Braille sheets to be used in the Lok Sabha Elections have the serial number, name of the candidate and name of the party. But symbols are omitted,” she said.
As the 15th Lok Sabha election promises to be a ‘disabled-friendly’ election, following a Supreme Court order in October 2007, many persons with disability have great expectations, said Ms. Aruna. When contacted, officials concerned said that they were not aware of the absence of symbols. President of the Federation of Tamil Nadu Handicapped Association G. Chidambaranathan said, “The introduction of Braille is welcome. A system without deficiencies can make democracy more inclusive.”
Meenakshi Balasubramanian, Assistant Coordinator of Disability Legislation Unit of Vidyasagar said, “The people with disability have made a representation to officials. Effective measures will help the invisible minority of over 2 per cent of the people contribute to the democratic process in the country.”
The Election Commission had promised easy access to booths and Braille stickers on electronic voting machines in order to enable persons with disability exercise their franchise.
With regard to ramps, Ms. Balasubramanian said that ramps were required in all schools and permanent ramps were not available in some polling stations. Corporation officials however said that temporary ramps will be constructed wherever necessary, for the benefit of persons with disability. According to an election official, there are 2,100 permanent ramps at various polling stations in the city.
Election officials also said that mothers carrying infants, and very old citizens would be exempted from standing in the queue at polling stations.