Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Disabled people find voting difficult in India

People with disabilities in Bangalore, India went to the polls May 10 and found no Braille-enabled voting machines or ramps at the polling booths, according to One World South Asia.

In the world’s largest democracy, people with disabilities say they face many barriers when trying to vote.

“Less than a month after the state chief electoral officer gave an assurance to disability activists, there is no sign of Braille strips on voting machines or ramps on the polling booths,” says Paul Ramanath, secretary Karnataka Angavikalara Rajya Okkoota (KARO), a state-level alliance of disability groups supported by ActionAid.

“Despite a standing directive from the Supreme Court and a mandate from the Chief Election Commission, voters with disabilities in Karnataka faced inaccessible polling booths and voting machines sans Braille,” confirms Victor John Cordeiro, program manager of ActionAid’s Disability Unit.

“I had to be lifted along with my wheelchair by no less than four people to get across the steps at the entrance of the polling station. There was no ramp as usual,” says Manjula, a wheelchair user who works with a leading international Business Process Outsourcing company.

“It was a day full of expectations so far as disabled people in the state are concerned, but when I went to vote I had to seek assistance in climbing steep stairs to the polling booth,” says C. Mahesh, also a wheelchair user, works for the Community Based Rehabilitation Forum, as the Advocacy Coordinator in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.