A giant step towards ‘accessible elections’


Cuttack: With ‘accessible elections’ being the central theme of the Election Commission, the Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Department (SSEPD) on Tuesday organised an awareness programme for visually impaired voters to train them to cast their votes independently in the ensuing Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

Nearly 110 visually impaired students of Ravenshaw University and Radhanath Training School attended the awareness programme conducted by Odisha’s first visually-impaired OAS officer Sanyasi Behera at the Ravenshaw University here.

Behera also conducted a mock drill and demonstrated the usage of a dummy Braille ballot papers and its correct usages with the help of Cuttack District Social Security Officer (DSSO) Ashok Mishra.

Behera, who is currently serving as the Social Security Officer in the SSPED Department, said the main objective of organising such sensitisation programme is to train the visually impaired persons to exercise their franchise independently in the upcoming elections.

He said that the dummy ballot paper in Braille script has serial numbers corresponding to candidate name, photo and symbol.

“The PwD voters, particularly visually impaired will first read the paper and press the button according to the signage,” said Behera.

He said that the SSEPD Department has instructed all district Collector to hold such awareness programme for all categories of PwDs electorates. The department has also placed fund for the purpose.

Cuttack PD-DRDA, DIPRO, and other district officials attended the programme.

There are over 4.7 lakh voters under the persons with disabilities (PwD) category in Odisha.

Chief Electoral Officer Surendra Kumar had earlier said that elaborate facilities are being arranged for voters with disabilities for the first time under the EC theme of accessible elections. As per the plan, Odisha Government will provide 25,000 wheelchairs at booths during polls. Each booth will have two volunteers below the age of 18, either belonging to NCC or Scouts and Guides, to help PwD voters.

Elections will be held in 21 Lok Sabha and 147 Assembly segments in the State in four phases on April 11, 18, 23 and 29.

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