Disability Rights Activist Dr Satendra Singh On Inclusivity In The Ongoing Elections
- IWB Post
- April 13, 2019
The 2019 Lok Sabha Elections are in full swing and everybody who is eligible to vote is being urged to do so. But often, the arrangements aren’t such that everyone is able to cast their vote, be it due to inaccessible infrastructure, lack of facilities, or a voting process that isn’t flexible enough to accommodate certain requirements.
But this year, in a first, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has strived to make inclusive elections possible and has promised to ensure that people with disabilities will be able to cast their vote without any hassles or discomfort. Both of the major political parties, BJP and Congress, also have a section in their recently released manifestos mentioning their promises for the differently-abled people.
“Lack of inclusive services excludes us from the mainstream. We are forced to go invisible. Accessibility is a major force to empower people with disabilities. New disability law RPDA provides punitive actions but it needs to be implemented to protect our dignity and promote inclusion,” says Dr Satendra Singh, a disability rights activist who is the Henry Viscardi Achievement Awardee of the year 2017.
In a recent live Twitter chat with IWB, Dr Singh discusses rights for differently-abled people, how successful has the ECI been in implementing its promises, the challenges faced by the community, and ways to achieve absolute inclusivity.
On what promises the ECI has made to the community
@indianwomenblog ECI has promised following Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) on polling day: Data of voters with disabilities PS wise made, #a11y of PS (ramp & wheelchair), EVM w/ Braille, Sign language, special volunteers, transport facility, and priority access. #AccessibleElection #Votability
@indianwomenblog @ECISVEEP @SpokespersonECI @CeodelhiOffice @kushalpathak ECI in 2018 gave the theme of #AccessibleElection & appointed @SmithaSadasiva5 as an Accessibility Consultant. As she is an activist & wheelchair user, for the first time, we saw inclusion of a person w/ disability in National, State, District & AC level Committees
On measures to ensure complete inclusivity
@indianwomenblog @ECISVEEP @SpokespersonECI @CeodelhiOffice @kushalpathak @SmithaSadasiva5 DEO’s checklist for SVEEP states PS to be accessible for all persons with disabilities. ECI’s AMF mandates ramp of atleast 1:12 gradient & 1.5m width. This has not been uniformly followed & action should be taken on defaulters.
On how effectively the promises made by ECI were executed
@indianwomenblog @ECISVEEP @SpokespersonECI @CeodelhiOffice There are mixed reports. Where on one side elderly people above 80 yr embraced wheelchairs & exercised their rights,a few polling stations in Ghaziabad & Nagpur had lack of wheelchairs at PS. Voters with visual impairment didnt face much problems. I encourage all to #GoVote
On the steps taken by political parties for the inclusion of the community
@indianwomenblog @ECISVEEP @SpokespersonECI @CeodelhiOffice In comparison to previous General Elections, parties have now included demands from disability sector in their manifestos. Atleast three major partiues have done this. Though one has come up with audio format, the other despite promise has not released manifesto in braille.
On the facilities available at the election booths for women with disabilities
@indianwomenblog @ECISVEEP @SpokespersonECI @CeodelhiOffice Companion is allowed for #WomenWithDisabilities including the new 14 disabilities in #RPwDAct by @CeodelhiOffice. There is a provision of all women poll station in every distt asper ECI circular. Outreach through educational instts are supposed to have aspecial focus on women.1/n
On the situation of women with disabilities
@indianwomenblog @ECISVEEP @SpokespersonECI @CeodelhiOffice #WomenwithDisabilities face significantly more difficulties (in both Public/Pvt) in attaining access to housing, health, education, training & employment, & are more likely to be institutionalized. 1/n
@indianwomenblog @ECISVEEP @SpokespersonECI @CeodelhiOffice Women & girls w/ disabilities experience double discrimination, which places them at higher risk of gender-based violence, sexual abuse, & neglect. They rarely participate in economic decisionmaking Promoting gender equality/empowerment of women is essential to achieve #SDG5 2/n
On who is eligible to vote
@indianwomenblog People with psychosocial disabilities (mental illness) & intellectual disabilities (Mental retardation, learning disabilities, autism etc) have equal voting rights but because of ignorance & poor awareness they are excluded from the electoral process. 1/n #AccessibleElections
@indianwomenblog If anybody irrespective of having a disability or not is certified as having unsound mind by the competent Court, the respective person will not be allowed to vote by the ECI.
On addressing issues of living with dignity and ensuring inclusivity
@indianwomenblog @ECISVEEP @AshokLavasa @padmaangmo @SpokespersonECI @DrSYQuraishi @kushalpathak @CeodelhiOffice For long dignity of people with #disabilities were compromised (see previous Disability Certificates mandating photo ‘showing’ #disability). This is a human rights issue. With universal design approach we can include disabled, elderly, pregnant women all into our society #CRPD