Disabled ‘broadly’ happy with arrangements in polling booths

May 7th, 2009 - 4:40 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) The teething troubles were quite apparent. Yet, as Delhi went to polls Thursday, the disabled population and NGOs working with the community were more or less happy with the special arrangements made in the polling booths by the Election Commission for the Lok Sabha elections.
Javed Abidi, director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), said that he was broadly happy with the facilities in the polling booths for the specially abled people.

“There have been lapses. Some disabled people have complained that the ramp in the booths for wheelchair bound people are too steep. Others have said that in some places the polling officers were unaware of braille strips in the electronic voting machines (EVM) for the benefit of the blind,” Abidi told IANS.

“However, broadly I am happy with the arrangements. These are teething problems and with time I am sure things will smoothen out,” he said.

For the benefit of the disabled population, the Election Commission has ensured that all polling booths would have ramps and the EVMs would have braille strips. According to an Election Commission official a total of 1.05 million EVMs are being used in these elections across various states, and 450,000 among them are braille enabled.

Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Satbir Silas Bedi added: “We have also sounded the poll officials that separate queues be made for disabled people and senior citizens”.

According to NGOs nearly six percent of India’s population is disabled.

Arunima Jain, a school teacher who is wheelchair bound, said that she was quite happy with the arrangements in her polling booth in south Delhi.

“The ramp in my polling booth was a little steep so my husband had to get help to push me up to the booth. But other than that, I think the arrangements were satisfactory,” she said.

Similarly family members of Bhavya Verma, a wheelchair bound elderly woman who had come to cast her vote in a government school in Aurangzeb Road, said: “We are very happy with the ramp arrangement. She could cast her vote without much hassle.”

Jain however said that her friend who is visually impaired was in for a surprise when he reached the polling booth.

“My friend, who is blind, was shocked when he was told by the polling officer that he was not aware of the braille strip on the EVM. However when he was taken in, he could find the strip on the machine and cast his vote,” she said.

Abidi said that Chief Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla had specifically asked him to compile all the reports and give a detailed feedback on the disabled people’s polling experience so that appropriate changes can be brought about in the future.

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