Braille Ballot papers will be used to help the blind vote in the state.
HYDERABAD: For the visually-impaired, voting has always been a harrowing experience. Many of them have, for a long time now, complained that polling booths are not user-friendly. Even at polling stations with Braille ballot papers, issues are many. Some of them have asked the Election Commission to resolve their issues this election. They will find out on Thursday, the day they cast their votes, whether these requests have in fact worked.
Vikram Babu, a 34-year-old from Mahabubabad constituency, says, “During the Assembly elections, no measures were put in place for visually-impaired people like us. We were given a document with guidelines in Braille but they (polling officials) did not give us Braille ballot papers.”
While assistance was indeed provided to them, Vikram says it wasn’t enough. “An assistant reads out everything written on the EVM, but there are chances of this information being wrong,” he says. He, like many others, believe EVMs need to have an audio system installed in them. “Most ATMs have an audio system in place. EVMs too can have it,” he says.
Vikram laments that there is no transport facility for persons with disability (PwD) in his area. He had reached out to EC officials, only to be told that he could enrol himself on an application through which he could apply for transport facilities.
Mahinder Vaishnav, an international cricketer who has played for India’s blind team, claims the situation was much worse earlier and that it is improving now. A voter in Malkajgiri constituency, Vaishnav noted how Braille ballot papers were available at many polling booths in the last elections. “However, it is important to note that very few people can actually read Braille. I had suggested that EVMs need to have raised party symbols so that blind people can touch to see if it’s a car, lotus, palm or so forth,” he says. Vaishnav also says that the fact that they don’t get Braille slips is another major issue. “Visually impaired people do get any acknowledgment for their vote,” he explains.
Another voter, this time from Mahbubnagar, has the same complaints about EVMs. “EVMs are not user-friendly for blind voters. In addition to Braille ballot paper, EVMs should have Braille stickers,” he says.
He says that he had once told an ECI officer all these problems. He hopes this time the officials have found solutions for them.
Braille Ballot papers
As the name suggests, they can be used by visually impaired persons to read details of parties and candidates. The papers will tell a voter the position of candidates on the EVM. For instance, in Nizamabad, where there are 185 candidates, voters will be provided a 11-page document. As Braille script takes more space than regular print, only 16 names can be printed on one page