People with disabilities have to go through a very hard time when it comes to voting during elections. Polling stations without ramps, unavailability of wheelchairs, lack of provisions for visually impaired voters, and a lot more – the problems are numerous.
Thus, a group of activists working for the rights of people with disabilities in Chennai, have prepared a list of features that are required to make polling booths differently-abled friendly.
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The list was prepared after their meeting with Tamil Nadu’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Sandeep Saxena, with the view of making assembly elections more inclusive.
The activists belong to an organization named Disability Rights Alliance, and they will submit the list to the CEO. They have asked for the implementation of accessible features and assistive technology, like ballot sheets in Braille, and availability of hand rails.
The list of requirements, as reported by The Times of India, includes the following:
1. Flat roads approaching polling stations.
2. Accessible signals at road crossings near polling stations.
3. Wide, non-slippery pavements with ramps and tactile guiding paths approaching the polling station.
4. Signages, pictures and enlarged text to guide voters towards polling stations.
5. Vehicle parking for persons with disabilities inside and outside the premise of polling stations, with universal disability symbol.
6. Universal disability symbol at the entrance/let in ways for persons with disabilities.
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7. In case of separate entry for persons with disabilities, entrance to be free of bumps or sand.
8. Availability of ramps in case there are stairs.
9. Gradient of ramp to be the standard 1:12 or at least 1:10.
10. Ramps to be minimum 3-foot wide and strong enough to hold a person using wheel chair.
11. Ramps to be smooth without any damage or danger.
12. Entrance door of the polling station should be kept open.
13. Doorway should be minimum 3-foot wide for wheelchair users.
14. Hall way/pathway to polling rooms to be free of obstacles with signage and tactile guide.
15. Polling room to be on the ground floor or to have elevators that can accommodate wheelchairs.
16. Entire polling station should be well lit.
17. Adequate space for wheel chair users to move around freely between registration and ballot tables in polling rooms.
18. Information/posters on voting process to be available outside and inside the polling room written in large text and Braille with pictures and plain language.
19. Counters, desks, ballot sheets and EVMs at a wheelchair accessible height.
20. Ballot sheets and EVMs should be in Braille.
21. Restrooms to have easy to open doors, 3-foot wide and flat floor with handrails and accessible height.
22. Hand rails and tactile floor guides towards and within polling room and rest room.
23. Colour coding to indicate level differences throughout the polling station.
24. Seating arrangement with wheel chair accessible height, and back and arm rest to be provided inside polling stations.
25. Accessible drinking water facility.
“We will need to mobilise community support to help with transportation of some people with disabilities who cannot travel on their own. The CEO, had said that this can be attempted as they won’t be able to provide separate transport” Smitha Sadasivan, a member of Disability Rights Alliance, told The Times of India.
Other than these, they have also asked for amplifying devices for the hearing impaired, sign language interpreters, and magnifiers for those with partial or low vision.