Diff-Abled Raring to Vote, but Ramps Raise Concerns
Both times when she chose to register her ballot, Evelyn Jonathan decided to ride to the booth on her modified two-wheeler, “As soon as I arrived at the school where I had to vote, people noticed that I needed to walk with crutches and were nice enough to let me jump the queue,” smiles the copywriter, who is all set to go out and vote on Thursday.
Not only that, the officials on election duty were exceptionally polite and even allowed her companion to help her into the booth and vote — a privilege not accorded to most others. Much like her, several other differently abled people in the city are excited about getting to cast their vote.
“I read that the Election Commission has made all the booths disabled-friendly and that is how I convinced my parents to let me vote,” explains Ilakkiya Nathan, who is paralysed from the hip down. The spunky computer-grad says that she used the news and convinced her folks to enroll her on the voters list this time, “I was eligibible last time, but my parents were concerned about letting me go and wait in a queue, or being lifted up steps,” adds the first time voter.
This is largely the sentiment prevailing amongst the 22 lakh diff-abled people across the state who have registered to vote this year, says S Namburajan, State Secretary, Tamilnadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled & Caregivers (TARATDAC), “According to reports that we are getting about the ramps that have been set up at various booths, they are make-shift ones at a very steep angle. Even in 2011, when they tried to make booths disabled friendly, most of them were not useful for our people as they were just planks nailed together, without any rails or hand-holds.” Only when they see the ramps on Thursday will they be able to assess whether it is actually better or worse, he adds. Ramps or not, the sheer spirit of some of these diff-abled youngsters is heartening, K Vasanth, who lost his right leg in an accident, casually says that he’ll hop into a booth or stand in a queue all day if need be, just to experience voting. “I don’t intend to use a wheelchair. Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to getting that black dot on my finger!” adds Evelyn.
Blind worried about Braille EVMs
Visually impaired persons expressed concerns that the Braille EVMs organised by the ECI were all in English and not in Tamil, “Most of the 1.5 lakh visually affected voters do not know English. I hope that this is not a bigger barrier for us,” said David, a visually impaired second-year student.