When visually impaired college professor K Raghuraman went to the Sita Devi school in East Tambaram to cast his vote, he was shocked to find that no one there was aware of a braille sheet for blind voters.
“I gave them my name confidently and waited for the braille sheet to be brought. It happened in 2011, so I was confident that it would be available this time,” said the professor at Nandanam Arts College. Instead, after a little conferring, the polling officers told him that they weren’t aware of any such provision and asked him to take the assistance of the presiding officer to ‘proxy’ cast his vote after reading the options to him.
While a few others said that the braille sheet had been provided at some places, most needed the help of a companion as the names of candidates were apparently mismatched.
Others with impaired vision and partial sight, like Pradeep R, said that they had a horrid time trying to read the candidates’ names on the EVM, as the font was illegible and too small to read, besides being in the least li part of the booth.
If the blind had a torrid time ‘seeing’ the light at the end of the tunnel during poll day, the disabled seemed to have had it just a little worse. The Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled & Caregivers (TARATDAC) received complaints from several diff-abled persons across the state that ramps and safety rails had not been provided in booths outside the major towns and cities, and send a strong condemnation to the Election Commission.
People in the city had things better though — some, like Babu, who came to the Vellayan Chettiar High School to vote.
Not only was he allowed to take his modified bike right up to the steps of the booth, the cops even let him come back to serve some of the voters a cup of tea. Using his burly arms to move around because palsy had affected his legs, Babu’s spirit managed to lift the mood of the voters.
Despite the lack of separate queues and incentives in the polling booths for the elderly, senior citizens and the aged kept up their date with democracy. Men and women aged over 70 years stood in queues along with others to vote. Many were seen holding on to their walking sticks while some were helped by a family member.
“We have been residents of Kotturpuram for the past 32 years and have never missed an election,” said 82-year-old Tirumalai who along with his 76 year old wife proudly showed his indelible ink mark. This aged couple who had travelled to the polling station along with a neighbour waited for their turn without complaints.