Visually challenged persons find it tough

Nandini D.K., who is a visually challenged, casting her vote.

Nandini D.K., who is a visually challenged, casting her vote.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Staff Reporter

At many booths there were no Braille-enabled stickers or dummy ballot papers

Supreme Court ordered in 2007 that polling should be disabled-friendly

Joint Chief Electoral Officer B.V. Kulkarni said EC orders had been followed

BANGALORE: Nandini (35) was one among scores of visually impaired persons, who had been looking forward to this “historic election”, ever since the Supreme Court ordered in 2007 making it mandatory to make elections disabled-friendly. However, she was disappointed to find that at her polling booth in Laxmi Memorial School at Lingarajpuram there was no Braille-enabled stickers or dummy ballot papers. A dejected yet angry Ms. Nandini was forced to request her relative to vote on her behalf, as she had done in the past.

“It was truly disappointing to find that we have not been granted the right to exercise our constitutional right independently. When technology has progressed so much, can they not do so much for us?” she asks.

Reporters of The Hindu found that in scores of polling booths across the four parliamentary constituencies in Bangalore polling officers were not aware of any such facilities. Even where Braille stickers were present on EVMs, poll officers pleaded ignorance. “We were told that we will be sent some extra apparatus to facilitate the visually-impaired but nothing came this morning,” a poll officer in Fathima School in Frazer Town said.

Geetha R., a visually-impaired voter, had a “funny story” to narrate. Aware of her new-found rights, Ms. Geetha insisted that she be allowed to check the machines despite repeated attempts by officers to discourage her. “They just did not know what I was asking for,” she says, a tad irritated. Interestingly, after she voted independently, the officials insisted on recording that she voted “with help from her sister-in-law”.

Visually-impaired persons in Nandini Layout in Bangalore North constituency had a similar experience. When informed by officials that there were no Braille-enabled facilities, angry voters staged a protest. When contacted, Joint Chief Electoral Officer B.V. Kulkarni said that all arrangements had been made, and orders from the Election Commission had been followed. “We purchased 70,000 Braille stickers from an NGO in Andhra Pradesh, and even conducted training sessions for the officers. What more can we do?”

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