Voting Reforms Nine Years Overdue, Advocates Claim
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 2, 2004
NEW DELHI, INDIA--Advocates with the non-governmental organization Disabled Rights Group claim that voting is still a "dehumanizing experience" for people with disabilities, even though the Disability Act mandated accessible voting in 1995.
The DRG has developed a list of accessibility problems that keep voters from exercising their right to vote in a dignified manner -- if at all -- along with recommendations for the Election Commission, the Express News Service reported Wednesday.
First among the problems listed have to do with accessible transportation. DRG pointed to a lack of accessible buses, and an "insensitive attitude" of bus drivers and conductors. DRG suggested that on election day bus drivers must "be firmly told they pick up these people and also give enough time to board the bus."
At the polling places themselves, security concerns are making it so no vehicles are allowed near voting booths. Advocates with DRG are suggesting that special permission be given to vehicles that transport voters with disabilities to allow them to park or be dropped off closer to polling places.
DRG members noted that many polling places still have stairs going to the voting booths. Even though bystanders are often willing to lift wheelchairs and their users, this practice is "a dehumanizing experience" the group said. The only solution, they said, is to build ramps.
Finally, DRG pointed out that blind voters have to rely on helpers to decipher the names on paper ballots and the new electronic voting machines (EVMs), in violation of their right to cast a secret ballot. The government could have the EVMs use Braille, or simply paste a plastic sheet with Braille signs on the machines, the group recommended. The advocates also suggested that the Election Commission educate security personnel about deaf and hard-of-hearing voters, because they are often accused of faking their disabilities.
The advocates explained that, because of the problems they experience with voting, many people with disabilities simply choose not to vote.
DRG officials have sought -- but not yet been granted -- an audience with the Election Commission, the news service reported.