[AI] Election Commission of India invites suggestions for enhancing the participation of persons with disabilities (PwDs) in electoral process

Kotian, H P hpkotian at rbi.org.in
Fri Apr 27 01:23:55 EDT 2018

I have received this document from Smita Sadashivan which is going to be submitted today.

Sharing it for information.

For any suggestions or query, please do it on a different new mail. This itself is a lengthy document.

Suggestions from the disability sector on the comprehensive agenda proposed by ECI for consultation with stake holders on inclusion of persons with disabilities in electoral process:
Significant barriers and major concerns voiced out:
Election officials including DEOs & CEOs being insensitive and irresponsive to the grievances brought to their notice with regard to polling booths and participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process.
Inputs for enhancing the participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process:
1.            Pre-election consultation with PwDs to be conducted at panchayat / district / state level well in advance to every respective election notification to map / understand the challenges that persons with disabilities face in electoral process and the specific needs of the PwDs / WwDs for their active participation in electoral process. This process shall specifically include persons with disabilities in rural areas as well as women with disabilities.
2.            All documents/circulars, audio visuals, apps, etc., need to meet the accessibility standards, as stated in the Rules of the RPWD Act 2016.
3.            Identification and enrolment of eligible persons with disabilities at their homes/residence and residential institutions, polling station wise, who are not listed in the electoral roll. Technology need to be taken to homes/residence of voters with disabilities in villages to facilitate their enrolment.
4.            Voter ID cards to have details printed in Braille. Another suggestion is to use technology to read out information on voter ID card. Discussion need to be facilitated with groups working with persons with visual impairment regarding Braille print as braille print occupies more space which an EPIC may not contain; as well as using technology for this purpose.
1.            During mapping/data collection of persons with disabilities, polling booth wise, there could be a column to note accommodation/ support that they may require for casting their vote. Another suggestion was that disability should be mentioned on the voter list to keep track of the voters with disabilities in the polling area and assist them when required. Special drive to be conducted to map persons with new disabilities incorporated in RPwD Act 2016.
5.            Forms 6, 7, 8 and 8a, and instructions provided with regard to filling up of the forms at Matdata Sahayata Kendras/Voter Facilitation Centres need to be in accessible formats. Assistance /scribes for filling forms also to be extended to persons with disabilities.
6.            Sensitisation of ground level enrolment officers on the right to vote of persons with intellectual / psycho social / multi sensory / multiple disabilities to be ensured so that they don't assume incapacity of persons with specific disabilities during enrolment.
7.            Specific SVEEP material targeted at motivating persons with disabilities and specific material targeted at general public, for sensitizing them on issues relating to electoral participation of persons with disabilities to be in accessible and easy to understand formats with captions apart from Braille script as well as sign language, easy read versions, etc, in local languages. Awareness / orientation program regarding the electoral rights of persons with disabilities, about the manner in which these citizens can exercise their right to vote, access justice and redress in case of violation of rights need to be ensured, so that they appreciate the importance of voting and insist / self advocate on exercising this right.
8.            All awareness campaigns and material meant for general public to incorporate (1) information on accessible and inclusive elections for persons with disabilities and (2) need to be made available in accessible formats, towards promoting equality in electoral participation of both persons with and without disabilities.
9.            Manpower engaged in polling booths (all polling officers, volunteers, police personnel, etc) to be sensitised and trained on interacting with and providing customer service for voters with disabilities. Each polling station must have women volunteers / trained lady police to help the women voters with disabilities.
10.          There could be a dummy EVM to educate voters with disabilities on operating the EVM to cast their vote.
11.          In case of persons with intellectual or multiple disabilities (including those related to sensory processing or pycho - social), an understanding of their right to vote from legal capacity point of view need to be developed. Awareness need to be raised among those who are in a position to facilitate people with intellectual disabilities in exercising their political rights as well (including relatives and care takers of people with intellectual disabilities, politicians and public authorities). The option for assistance within polling booths for people with intellectual disabilities / high support needs by a person of their choice whom they trust shall be included in ECI instructions. Service animal/guide dogs should be allowed along with voters with disabilities during voting.
12.          Accessible polling stations at the ground floor, including, wide entrance, adequate & dedicated parking within 30 meters, levelled / obstacles free pathways; ramps, signages, direction signs, pictograms of PS, lighting, wheelchair, toilets, drinking water facility, seating arrangement and а/vs to be as per access standards, as mandated in the Rules of the RPWD Act 2016. (Election officials should ensure that signs are visible from a distance. Signs should show where accessible entrances are located, where to go once inside, and where to sit for those who need to rest). Accessibility of pedestrian sidewalk to polling stations needs to be looked into as well. EVM chamber should meet access standards like wheel chair manoeuvring space, height of table, proper signage, ample illumination as well as contrast, auditory clues and so on. Specific reasonable accommodations (such as magnifiers for people with low vision, large grip pens, small stool for short people, silent space for people with autism, human assistance within polling booths, sign language interpreters, etc) to be worked out for those who require them.
13.          Access audits of all the above mentioned infrastructure and facilities, reporting of the same and modifications based on the reports to be mandated by the time of notification of elections; a robust checklist for access survey should be evolved and used. Final inspection of accessible infrastructure and facilities and reporting to be done 3 days before election.
14.          More discussion on improving EVMs accessibility based on universal design principles - like audio based, confirming before taking it as final, options for deleting and repressing (tolerance for error, etc.) need be engaged by the Commission. In the EVM, the party symbols need to be provided in tactile format such that a visually impaired person can touch and know what it is. There should be a provision where a voter with visual impairment can connect an earphone so that he/she could hear what they have pressed. Long cables that enable adjusting EVMs, approach to EVM from sideways for short people, etc, to be worked out as there is difficulty in reaching the topmost icon. An easy read version of candidate / ballot sheet, with large pictures, to be hung or kept near the EVM for people with low vision/ intellectual disabilities / high support needs. More than one method of casting a ballot such as - Touch screens, a handheld device with Braille labels, magnifiers, joystick, etc need to be considered for all 21 types of disabilities.
15.          ECI may appoint an accessibility nodal officer, with knowledge and expertise in accessible solutions for every AC / District to monitor the services as mention above.
16.          Sign language interpreters to be assigned at zonal and central levels in all districts to cater to the grievances of electors / voters with speech and hearing impairment during pre-polls and poll day through video call facility.
17.          Postal ballot, mobile ballot units (including polling vans to have scheduled stops at hospitals/ rehab institutions to enable participation of people admitted/working, etc) and online voting options need to be explored.
18.          Accessible free transport (van) facility or transport voucher to be provided to voters with disabilities to reach polling booths on poll day.
19.          A free helpline number for each AC / online facility in DEO/CEO's website to book wheel chair and/ or Van Service facility. A prior verification and confirmation on the facility should be done by election officials.
20.          Allocation of budget to be made for raising awareness on accessible electoral process too.
21.          Selection of election ambassador with disability and NGO for support can to be facilitated through the district committee under Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and election commission.
22.          Election Commission should hire persons with disabilities including women with disabilities as polling officers.
23.          Election Commission should issue a circular mandating all political parties to make their communication (websites, manifestos, speeches), their offices, venues, etc to be accessible.
24.          Election Commission should issue a circular to the media (TV etc) to make their information accessible.
25.          Persons with disabilities may be encouraged to contest elections by enabling certain specialised provisions, concessions, etc.
26.          Standard operating procedures (SOPs) shall be incorporated in the election process so that ECI agenda on accessible elections will be ensured at the ground level without voters with disabilities being taken for granted, failing which the elections can be turned down as null and void.
27.          Specific provision of punitive measure for non-compliance of the notices / guidelines or directives regarding "accessibility for PwDs / WwDs in the electoral process" by the stakeholders including election commission, have to be a part of the ECI policy, including well defined monitoring mechanism for implementation.

Instances of Good Practices:
1.            Through the CBR programme of NBJK supported by CBM, regular home visits and leadership training have successfully been able to motivate persons with disabilities to vote and one of the DPO leaders to contest assembly elections. Thus a regular intervention is required to raise the awareness of disabled citizens not only to vote but also to contest elections!
2.            Information in the local language should be given to disabled voters in the rural areas. VSO & NBJK have initiated a newsletter called "Viklang Vani" (voices of disabled) in Dhumka district in Jharkhand, which is a newsletter in hindi and has information on issues related to disability and rights of persons with disabilities. Such initiatives should include messages and information on electoral rights.
3.            After Rajasthan State Consultation, three PWD brand ambassadors have been appointed and sensitization session on Accessible Elections with administrative officers had been taken up by District Collectors of Sikar and Jhunjhunu districts.
4.            During 2017 Punjab assembly elections, disability district coordinators (PwDs) were provided id cards from respective district administrations to conduct access audit of polling booths based on an accessible polling booths checklist prepared by Disability Rights Alliance India. The coordinators were also accompanied by staff from the district revenue offices in their office vehicles. The reports presented were acted upon in many polling booths.
5.            Sign language interpreter was assigned to control room with video call facility during by-Elections to Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly constituency, Chennai in 2017. The by-elections also witnessed 4 accessible (easy to understand) posters with pictures about election process at every polling booth.
6.            In Odisha the use of folk art form has seen a huge acceptance and reach of various government messages on polio, vaccination, health advisory etc. The same could be used for election purpose.
7.            Goa Assembly elections 2017 enabled a polling booth fully manned by persons with disabilities.
8.            CEO TN' s efforts during 2016 assembly  elections where election street plays incorporated a sign language interpreter was much appreciated by Deaf groups.
Members who contributed through their suggestions are as follows:
1.            Ms.Rama Chari, Director, DEOC, Bengaluru
2.            Ms. Sakshi Broota, Director, DEOC, Gurugram
3.            Mahantesh GK, Founder and Chairman, Samarthanam International, Bengaluru
4.            Mr. Sudeep Goyal, Rajasthan
5.            Mr. Praveen Kumar G., Executive Director (Interim), VSO India, New Delhi
6.            Mr. Anand Abhinav, Program Director, NBJK, Jharkhand
7.            Ms.Nita Panchal, Disability Advocacy Group, Ahmedabad
8.            Mr. Amarjith Singh Anand, Parents association, Punjab
9.            Bharghavi Dhavar, Bapu Trust, Pune
10.          K. Sujatha, Chennai
11.          Sruti Mohapatra, Odissa
12.          Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director, Svayam, New Delhi
13.          Dr. Sapam Josowanta Singh, Hadicapped Development Foundation, Manipur
14.          Ms.Kuhu Das, Association for Women with Disabilities, West Bengal
15.          Mr.P.N.Andhare, Maharashtra
Comprehensive agenda proposed by ECI:
Part A (as instructed vide circulars in Sept 2016]
1.            Websites of CEO/DEO made user friendly and accessible to persons with disabilities as per prescribed standards.
2.            Identifying eligible PwDs, polling station wise, who are not listed in the electoral roll and their enrolment
3.            Mapping of PwD electors, polling station wise and recording the type of disability, wherever they are willing to share.
4.            Matdata Sahayata Kendras/Voter Facilitation Centres to extend facilitation to PwDs. Adequate instructions to facilitate filling-up of forms 6, 7, 8 and 8A at these centres
5.            Specific SVEEP material targeted at motivating PwDs and specific material targeted at general public, for sensitizing them on issues relating to electoral participation of PwDs.
6.            Accessible awareness material on election process e.g. in Braille script and sign language. Voter slips for persons with disabilities to incorporate information about the facilities for PwDs and in accessible format e.gBraille, signage/symbols/pictures, large text with contrast colors, etc
7.            Special camps for enrolment and sensitization of PwDs.
8.            Wherever possible, PwDs as District /State Icons and among Campus Ambassadors.
9.            Non-political & non-partisan NGOs and CSOs working for PwDs roped in for facilitating the electoral participation of PwDs.
10.          Special training and sensitization sessions for the election machinery to address the needs of PwDs.
11.          PwD volunteers involved in election process (as BLO, at Voter Help desk etc) so that they can motivate other PwDs to participate in the election process.
12.          Accessible polling station incl wide entrance, ramps, signages, wheel chair, а/v for hearing impaired, priority in voting etc
13.          Allocation of budget for accessible electoral process 5
14.          Designated officer appointed assembly-constituency wise for PwDs.
15.          CEO / DEOs offices made accessible as per GOl standards.
Part В (barriers & challenges experienced)
1.            Barriers to the Inclusion of PwDs in electoral participation (incl physical, attitudinal, communication, policy, programmatic, social and transportation). Issues and Challenges in removal of barriers, how they have been addressed.
2.            Good practices developed in the district on the points referred to above.
3.            Suggestions on strategies for enhancing the participation of PwDs.
The detailed instructions provided by ECI in 2016 can be accessed from the following links:


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