Election Commission portal to aid disabled voters

July 01, 2018 09:38 pm | Updated 10:27 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Election Commission of India in New Delhi. File

The Election Commission of India in New Delhi. File

The Election Commission will launch a voter education and electoral participation portal on July 3, with a section dedicated to the Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), in the backdrop of a two-day national consultation programme on issues pertaining to their inclusion in the poll process.

The programme on “Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in the Electoral Process” is being organised with a view to come up with a national policy on the issue. According to the 2011 census, India has around 70 million people with disabilities.

Post-consultation, a comprehensive report on challenges along with short/medium/long-term action points will be prepared. Among the participants will be senior government functionaries, representatives from political parties and NGOs, and experts.

Under the EC’s Strategic Plan 2016-2025, greater participation of PwDs in the electoral process has been identified as one of the core objectives.

As part of the initiative, the EC had this year declared “Accessible Elections” as the theme for the National Voters Day observed on January 25. The international conference held on January 24 focussed on the same theme.

The Commission had earlier conducted consultations at the district level across the country to identify the barriers, challenges and possible solutions. The outcomes, particularly on issues of registration and polling, were documented and taken up at the State-level consultations.

The consultation reports deal with various aspects, including booth-wise mapping of PwDs; accessibility enhancements at polling stations; PwD friendly websites and awareness programmes; registration and sensitisation camps; partnering with PwDs as icons; collaboration with NGOs; and sensitisation of the election machinery, said an official.

In the States where elections were held recently, the Commission has completed a thorough mapping of PwDs up to Assembly constituency level. They have been classified into five categories: those with visual disability, with speech and hearing disability, locomotor disability, intellectual disability and those with multiple disabilities.

The official said a series of PwD-friendly measures were taken in States such as Delhi, Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Bihar, Assam, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh.

For the national consultation, the participants will be divided into five groups to cover various disabilities. They will focus on identification of barriers, possible challenges for election officials in implementation, and recommendations on possible solutions.

The Commission plans to employ technology to overcome the challenges in effective communication with PwDs. Apart from preparing publicity material in sign language and Braille script in regional languages, it is stressing on developing audio applications like voice SMS (web or mobile) for their registration.

As per the paper “Breaking the Barriers: Making Elections Accessible” released by the Commission, it has been noted that data of persons with disabilities should not be displayed on website, nor shared, to maintain their privacy.

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