Poll booths have miles to go for differently abled

Last Updated : 19 April 2019, 10:45 IST

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The state of polling booths with respect to disabled-friendly facilities reflected the condition of schools, with most of the private schools having the permanent infrastructure with regard to accessibility while the government schools lagged behind.

Last month, Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar had announced that every booth would be accessible for the people with disabilities. Going a step ahead, the official had mapped the number of disabled in each district and gave them an option to book free pickup and drop and wheelchair facilities.

However, the ground reality showed that much need to be done before the polling booths can actually become accessible. Ten reporters from DH toured the four constituencies in Bengaluru and visited hundreds of booths only to find that the disabled-friendly measures in government schools were not up to the mark.

At several booths in Devanahalli, KR Puram, Bommanahalli, Byatarayanapura and other areas, there were volunteers who brought the blind and physically challenged persons to the booth. But by the afternoon, the booths had almost no one to assist the needy.

In Pulakeshinagar, Yashwantpur, Dasarahalli and Mahalakshmi Layout, none of the polling booths in government schools, which DH visited, had ramps. Officials had no answer for questions about the lack of such facility.

Sunil Jain of Astha, an NGO that works for the development of the differently abled, said it would not be right to see it in the private and government school binary. “There is a mindset that needs to change. Disability measures are being implemented as a charity, which will fail regardless of the funds and efforts. There should be a rights-based approach, that will boost the decision making in each sector,” he said.

He said government schools fare poorly in terms of accessibility but instead of comparing it with private schools, it would be better to address the issue holistically. “Is it enough to make only the buildings accessible? What about the city buses and city roads? These are challenges that policymakers have to take up,” he said.

Jayavibhavaswamy, Director of the Department for the Empowerment of the Differently Abled and Senior Citizens, said the facilities were better in district areas when compared with Bengaluru. “It was a tough exercise to map differently abled persons in Bengaluru. In district levels, it has been a success and services have been provided at the necessary polling booths. It is true that government schools including disabled-friendly infrastructure remove half of the burden,” he said.

Published 18 April 2019, 20:07 IST

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