Times of India | 1 month ago | 11-08-2022 | 01:23 am
Panaji: The Disability Rights Association of Goa expressed disappointment at the lack of accessibility facilities for persons with disabilities (PwD) at the panchayat elections.“We were very disappointed to see videos of persons with disabilities struggling at polling booths to cast their votes,” president Avelino de Sa stated.“They had promised to provide ramps, but these were missing at many places. This is not only insensitivity, but violation of Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016, by the state election commission,” de Sa said.One video that went viral was that of minister Govind Gaude, who recently suffered an injury, struggling to climb multiple flights of stairs to reach his polling booth.The visually impaired were also disappointed at not having braille ballot papers and other facilities to allow them to cast their vote independently, with dignity.One such voter, Shankar Khauntankar told reporters that he asked for a braille ballot paper but was told that these were not available as there is no provision to have them in the Panchayat Raj Act.“I request for an amendment to the Act so that the visually impaired can vote independently. I was compelled to bring along a companion to vote. Where’s the secrecy in my vote? It’s a fundamental right and we should be able to cast our vote ourselves,” he said.Council member of the National Association for the Blind, Goa, Mahadev Sawant, who has low vision, said several facilities need to be put in place for those with low vision as well as with 100% visual impairment. “The symbols should be in large font so that we can clearly identify them. The provision of adequate lighting must also be looked into,” he said.Although persons with benchmark disabilities and seniors above 80 voted from home for the assembly elections recently, Sawant said it was not all hunky dory for those with 100% visual impairment. “Braille ballot guides were provided to be able to know the candidates contesting, but when it came to selecting the candidate there was no way for the 100% visually impaired person to know which candidate he was selecting on the voting slip. There’s no secrecy here,” he said.Responding to a request for facilities for PwDs to be able to vote from home just like they did in the assembly elections, the SEC had said that “the provision of braille ballot papers and postal ballot voting for elderly citizens above 80 years of age and bedridden is not mentioned in the Goa Panchayat Raj Act, 1994”.