(2013) Inclusion of for Persons with Disabilities (PwD)
According to the 2011 census, India has around 70 million people with disabilities. Election commission made special efforts in provincial elections since 2013 and the national elections to make the elections inclusive and extended extra facilitation for persons with disabilities and also for old and infirm. The Cuttack administration took the challenge of mainstreaming PwD electors and enhancing their participation in the electoral process. A survey of PwDs, conducted through Anganwadi Workers (AWWs) in October-November 2013 wherein 46,989 numbers of PwDs including children, had been enlisted. Out of the above list, PwDs aged above 18 years were shortlisted which numbered 20,208. Single Window Camps for PwDs were conducted in all the Blocks and Urban bodies. In all these camps, an exclusive counter was set up to enrol PwD in the Electoral Roll.
A special meeting was conducted by District Election Officer, Cuttack to draw up an action plan for arrangements to be made for electors with disability. Representative from Association of PwDs was also present. Strategy was evolved with clear tasks; targets, assigned to officers. The District Election Office unanimously set a goal to achieve 100 % voting by PwD electors as a matter of their right. One district level Unit and 14 Block level monitoring controls rooms were opened for the purpose. The Block level control room acted as a Call-Centre. Every PwD voter was called at least thrice over his phone & explained the facilities made available at booths. It was decided to provide at least two volunteers to every polling booth to assist PwDs. Measures like barrier free access to each of the polling stations with construction of permanent or temporary ramps, deployment of Wheel chairs at all booths, disabled friendly furniture in Polling booth, Provision of Signature Guide, Provision of special queue for priority casting of votes, Lay-out Design for Hearing-impaired, Engagement of sign language interpreter for the Hearing Impaired, Printing of Braille Ballot papers were under-taken.
Awareness generation was undertaken through various methods & media. Voters’ Guide in vernacular language, on the voting rights and facilities for PwD voters was distributed. To motivate PwD electors & boost the morale of their family members, Household Contact programme was conducted for 10 days. The Anganwadi workers visited the household of PwD voters & handed over awareness material. The family members were explained regarding the arrangements made to boost their morale. Gathering information about PwDs in the district posed to be one of the huge challenges. The task of reaching out to PwD voters for awareness purposes with a 100% accuracy and efficiency proved to be a tough task. Moreover means of awareness used themselves posed a challenge as the same medium couldn’t be used for every PwD voter. Awareness campaigns, Audio/Video, Print media, Posters, special logistics at the polling booths for the convenience of voters was initiated. The Cuttack administration was able to reach 88.30% of the total PwD population in its district, the highest ever.
Edited by ECI