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The very foundation of a democracy lies in the representation of all stakeholders and an indispensable part of nation-building starts with the inclusion of all in its electoral process. To uphold the spirit of free and fair elections, Election Commission of India declared ‘Accessible Elections’ as the theme for this year’s National Voters’ Day, i.e. 25th January 2018. The theme seamlessly integrates with the underlying philosophy of universal adult suffrage and the concept of ‘No Voter to be Left Behind.’ On 3rd and 4th July 2018, the Election Commission of India organized a National Consultation on Accessible Elections at ‘The Lalit’, New Delhi, wherein all the 36 Chief Electoral Officers and representatives from Civil Society Organisations, working in the field of Disability deliberated upon ways and means to make elections completely accessible to Persons with Disabilities. The two-day Consultation was also attended by representatives of national political parties and senior officials from Ministries apart from notable media organisations. Ahead of the National Consultation, a series of Consultations with the stakeholders were conducted in Districts and States across the country to identify the existing barriers and challenges, assess the implementation of the directives given by Commission on the subject, consolidate and gain from good practices (including innovations and technological support) and for further engagement with the stakeholders. The reports of the Consultations from the States were documented into the Consultation Reader and the same were carefully assessed and analyzed in the National Consultation. Recommendations of the National Consultation would pave the way for a policy document on ‘Accessible Elections’ and action plan for the upcoming elections. Background To make elections accessible to persons with disabilities, efforts have been taken up in past years. A well designed framework of guidelines has been directed by Commission for facilitating PwDs at every step in the electoral process. Many States and Union Territories have done exemplary work for overcoming the barriers and creating accessible and friendly environment for PwDs. The International Conference on ‘Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in Electoral Processes’, held in January, 2018, aided to consolidate and gain from international experience. Prior to this, the Commission's resolve in support of inclusion of PwDs has also been conveyed through official directives dated March 12, 2016 and September 7, 2016. Schedule 3rd July, 2018 09:30 am - 10:30 am Registration 10:30 am - 11:15 am Inaugural Session 11:30 am - 01:30 pm Technical Session -I (Accessible Elections-Sharing of Initiatives) 02:00 pm - 05:30 pm Technical Session-II (Group Tasks) 4th July, 2018 09:15 am - 01:45 pm Technical Session-II (Thematic Presentations) 09:15 am - 10:30 am Theme: Accessible Registration process including use of IT 10:45 am - 12:15 pm Theme: Accessible Polling Station including EVM/VVPAT and other Facilitation measures 12:15 pm - 01:45 pm Theme: Voter Education and Leveraging Partnerships 02:30 pm - 04:00 pm Closing Session Proceedings Day 1 The National Consultation on Accessible Elections opened with an enthusiastic start with the participation of more than 50 Civil Society Organizations and all the Chief Electoral Officers of States/UTs besides members of National Political Parties and Ministries, Government of India.Reaffirming ECI’s commitment to make elections entirely inclusive, accessible and hassle free for PwDs, Chief Election Commissioner Mr O P Rawat said in the inaugural session - “Despite having International, National laws and treaties or procedures in place, there is still a gap in reaching out to PwDs because of the apathy towards electoral process. I urge all the participants to suggest effective measures and help us devise a policy that can serve as a model framework for all Election Management Bodies of the world. Master Ram Chandra, a technician who was instrumental in creating the Jaipur Foot, which is now famous worldwide for providing assistance to PwDs and like him there are many famous as well as unsung heroes who are the part of war against disability.” In addition to that, Election Commissioner Mr Ashok Lavasa highlighted the importance of collaboration with stakeholders and society as a whole, while laying emphasis on awareness initiatives and spirit of volunteering among people to make the entire electoral process accessible. Concluding his remarks he said - “More Sensitized we are, More Sensible we become.” The first day of consultation also witnessed the launch of new dynamic website for ECI’s SVEEP (Systematic Voter’s Education and Electoral Participation) Division with a dedicated section on PwDs and state of the art security and accessibility features. The first technical session commenced with a presentation by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment followed by the presentation of Best Practices on Accessible Elections by the Chief Electoral Officers of Karnataka, West Bengal, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Meghalaya and District Election Officer of Mandya, Karnataka. Break Out Groups Post lunch, the participants of the National Consultation were divided into five groups, for discussions under the second technical session, to cover specific disabilities. Group 1: Blindness and Low Vision Group 2: Deaf and hard of hearing and mental illness Group 3: Locomotor Disability including cerebral palsy, leprosy cured, dwarfism, acid attack victims, muscular dystrophy Group 4: Intellectual disability including autism, specific learning disability Group 5: Multiple disabilities including deaf-blindness The groups read through the reports submitted by States/UT and assessed barriers, challenges specific to the disabilities; studied existing initiatives, took inputs from the participating CSOs and came up with findings and recommendations for thematic presentations. Day 2 The second day of the consultation observed three panel discussions under the final technical session which featured presentations from representatives from each of the five groups. The theme for these panel discussions were as follows – Theme 1: Accessible Registration Process including use of IT Theme 2 : Accessible Polling Station including EVM/VVPAT & other Facilitation measures Theme 3 : Voter Education and leveraging Partnerships The Closing Session of the National Consultation on Accessible Elections was graced by the presence of Hon'ble Chief Election Commissioner Mr O. P. Rawat, and Election Commissioners Mr Sunil Arora and Mr Ashok Lavasa. The Commission announced the following measures for the facilitation of PwDs. Printing of EPIC (Electors Photo Identity Card) with Braille for Persons with Visual Impairment or Blind, Accessible Communication Awareness Materials A Mobile Application to motivate and educate Appointment of Disability Coordinators at AC, District and State Level 5. Cascaded training on Accessibility to Poll officials Auxiliary Polling Stations Accessible Photo Voter Slips Sign Language window in all the audio visual training and advertisement content material for the convenience of deaf persons Free Transport Facility for PwDs and their Assistants A new Accessible Division in India International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Management (IIIDEM), New Delhi Strategic Framework for Accessible Elections The deliberations held during the two day consultation resulted in a comprehensive, “Strategic Framework on Accessible Elections” which will help in making electoral process more accessible in the forthcoming State and National Elections. It would be a significant step in pursuit of Election Commission’s mission to leave no voter behind. The Strategic Framework on Accessible Elections is built around sensitization through education and training, community involvement of different sections of society, effective partnership with institutions and origination and creation of facilities to cater to the specific needs of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) with a view to increasing their participation. You can read more about the Strategic Framework and its contents by following the given link - http://ecisveep.nic.in/news/election-commission-of-india-unveils-strategic-framework-on-accessible-elections-r3/
ECI posted a news in NewsElection Commission of India Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi-110001 No. ECI/PN/48/2018 Date: 4th July, 2018 Press Note Election Commission of India unveils Strategic Framework on Accessible Elections National Parties, Ministry Officials, Disability Field Experts and CSOs attend Day 2 of National Consultation on Accessible Elections Two days National Consultation on Accessible Electionsorganised by Election Commission of India concluded today in New Delhi. Delivering his concluding remarks, Chief Election Commissioner Shri O P Rawat announced a series of measures for facilitation of PwDs, which are as follows: Printing of EPIC (Electors Photo Identity Card) with Braille for Persons with Visual Impairment or Blind, Accessible Communication Awareness Materials A Mobile Application to motivate and educate Appointment of Disability Coordinators at AC, District and State Level Cascaded training on Accessibility to Poll officials Auxiliary Polling Stations Accessible Photo Voter Slips Sign Language window in all the audio visual training and advertisement content material for the convenience of deaf persons Free Transport Facility for PwDs and their Assistants A new Accessible Division in India International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Management (IIIDEM), New Delhi CEC Shri O P Rawat and ECs Shri Sunil Arora and Shri Ashok Lavasa facilitating Persons with Visual Impairment with Braille enabled EPIC card Chief Election Commissioner Shri O P Rawat stated that a review of the program will take place in the next three months. Election Commissioner Shri Sunil Arora said, “We should go far beyond the bureaucratic measures to overcome the barriers. Technology has the capability to fill the gaps and it shall be explored to its fullest potential. Election Commissioner Shri Ashok Lavasa remarked that the set of recommendations received from the Consultation will be examined properly and efforts will be made to implement the same in a time bound manner. The Commission also facilitated two blind voters with Braille enabled EPIC Cards marking the first step towards this initiative. The fruitful and meaningful deliberations held during the two day consultation resulted in a comprehensive “Strategic Framework on Accessible Elections” which will help in making electoral process more accessible in the forthcoming State and National Elections. The Framework includes 14 important parameters; Identification of Barriers and respective solutions, Voter registration and polling, Inclusive Voter Education, Leveraging Technology for Accessible Elections, Research and Knowledge Sharing, Role of Partner Departments, Educational Institutions, CSOs, Volunteers and Media, Training and sensitisation of Staff, Alternative Voting Methods, Legislative Initiatives and Special four tiered Committees on Accessible Elections. The Commission unveiling Strategic Framework on Accessible Elections The Consultation was the culmination of more than 3-month long series of District and State Level Workshops undertaken as a part of ECI’s theme for the year- 2018, Accessible Elections-to identify barriers/gaps in the inclusion of PwDs in the electoral process, assess the present accessibility policies in place and put forward recommendations for addressing barriers to enhance the participation of the differently-abled. --sd (Pawan Diwan) Under Secretary STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK ON ACCESSIBLE ELECTIONS 4th July 2018 Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi – 110001 www.eci.nic.in; ecisveep.nic.in STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK ON ACCESSIBLE ELECTIONS The Election Commission of India works on the premise of ‘No voter to be left behind’ and is committed toinclusion of all categories of voters in the electoral process to achieve the desired objective of universal adult suffrage as per its constitutional mandate. The Commission is committed to building an equal access framework for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) supported by the fundamentals of responsiveness, respect and dignity to enhance elector confidence among them; and support initiatives for improved service offerings to enhance their electoral participation. The Strategic Framework on Accessible Elections is built around sensitization through education and training, community involvement of different sections of society, effective partnership with institutions and originations and creation of facilities to cater to the specific needs of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) with a view to increasing their participation. The Strategic Framework shall inter alia include the following components: 1. Barriers: Continuous Identification and Solutions Identifying barriers and finding solutions to the same has to be a continuous process. A system of regular, periodic feedback shall be taken up. Well designed approach with strategic interventions including technology integration can help in obliterating barriers. 2. Voter Registration & Polling Database on PwDs, identified through mapping or initial voter registration, shall be efficiently and effectively used for follow up steps in the electoral process and the monitoring system for feedback, evaluation and consolidation. Polling stations shall be made accessible to all Persons with disabilities based on mapping of PwD electors and their specific needs 3. Inclusive Voter Education Customised voter education to cater to the different requirements of PwDs shall be taken up to empower them for electoral participation. All voter education content shall be accessible format. Focussed and need based interventions shall be taken up under ECI’s flagship voter education programme SVEEP to engage PwDs and also to sensitise their friends, families, polling officials, security officials and all other stakeholders. 4. Leveraging Technology for Accessible Elections This would essentially include (i)User friendly websites for PwDs of different categories. (ii) Accessible Technological Tools for facilitating PwDs of different categories to cast their vote (iii) Solutions for assisting voters with disabilities through technological innovation, research and integration. (iv) Accessible Media including Social Media Communications. 5. Research, Study and Knowledge sharing A continuous search for best practices, international and domestic, through detailed study and research on all areas of participation by PwDs and sharing of experiences to help formulate enabling policies and interventions, to aid, assist and facilitate the participation of PwDs. 6. Role of Partner Departments To explore and build partnership and commitment with Ministries and Departments to evolve and carry forward the interventions to electoral participation of PwDs. 7. Role of Educational Institutions The Commission has already issued directions for setting up of Electoral Literacy Clubs (ELCs) in educational institutions etc. Setting up of ELCs in educational institutions dedicated to the PwDs shall be expedited and the ELC resources shall customised to match disability requirements. 8. Role of CSOs To assess the potential of CSO’s and assign specific role in assisting equal access and capacity building through well designed partnerships. CSO’s potential to build partnerships should be utilised subject to their non partisan nature. 9. Role of Media utilise the potential of Media in taking forward voter education and to engage PwD’s for increasing their electoral participation. Media can actively contribute to an effective and successful integration of persons with disabilities in the electoral process. 10. Poll Volunteers Poll volunteers from among future voters can organised from educational institutions, and Chunav Pathshala, (ELCs for Communities) and trained to assist PwDs, besides from among NCC/NSS/NYKS and other non-partisan voluntary groups. The initiative will be subject to provisions of Rule 49N. 11. Training and Sensitization of Staff Training and sensitization of the election is important so that they are empathetic to the needs of PwD voters. The training shall be factored into regular training to the staff as also for the registration and facilitation of the PwDs. 12. Alternative Voting methods Alternative voting methods like advance voting or early voting, voting from home, Postal vote, transport assistance to PwDs or mobile polling station concept shall be looked at without compromising on the essential requirements of sanctity and secrecy of vote. 13. Legislative Initiative The scope of assistance to PwDs for participation is wide and diverse. Need for legislation shall be examined for enhancing electoral participation of the PwDs. 14. Special 4 tiered Committees on Accessible Elections Committees shall be formed at National, State, District and Assembly Constituency level with members from departments as well as stakeholders to review implementation of the directions of the Commission on ‘Accessible Elections’.