Special arrangements for disabled people at polling stations in Meghalaya

SHILLONG: Meghalaya chief electoral officer P Naik said has said the election department has arranged for the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) with "Braille Signage" and "construct ramps" at polling stations to ensure full participation of differently-abled voters in the assembly elections slated on February 23.

"We are taking necessary steps to ensure hassle-free voting for differently abled persons in polling stations across the state to help them exercise their franchise," said Naik. The steps are being undertaken by the election department in conformity with the Supreme Court order of 2005 in this regard. Besides the EVMs and ramps, the apex court had also suggested separate queues for the differently-abled in polling stations and sensitization of polling personnel with regards to the needs of such people.

Naik, however, said it was not possible to make arrangements for bed-ridden voters to exercise their franchise. "The postal ballots are meant for service people. There is no provision to make postal ballots available to bed-ridden voters," he added.

The Meghalaya Parents' Association for Disabled (MEPAD) had recently urged the election department to provide all facilities to enable disabled persons to cast their votes. Meghalaya has about 38,000 differently abled people, but the exact number of eligible voters from among them is not known.

MEPAD secretary Belbora Wankhar said separate queues and courteous polling personnel at the polling stations would make it easier for persons with disabilities (PWD) to exercise their franchise. Others said the availability of sign-language interpreters at polling stations will also be of immense help to the hearing-impaired.