Election Commission launches SMS service on 1950 helpline

EC to record electoral roll data on persons with disabilities.

Chennai: The Election Commission has initiated a SMS extension to its 1950 helpline which will allow it to collect information on eligible differently-abled voters in Tamil Nadu.

On Monday, members of various differently-abled rights groups met with Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Lakhoni, who also announced that the EC’s website would soon be accessible for persons with total and partial vision impairment.

The 1950 SMS service has been activated and differently-abled voters can register by entering * (star) symbol, followed by their Voter ID number and texting it to 1950. “We are collecting information through SMS to extend all our facilities to the differently-abled voter. Another reason is that so far we have not had a record in the electoral rolls about persons with disabilities,” said Lakhoni.

For the average voter, texting one’s voter ID to 1950, without the star symbol, would generate a reply consisting details about the polling booth where one’s name has been registered.

Smitha Sadasivan of the Disability Rights Alliance, one of the groups that met the CEO, told DC that the system should also be used to study how many registered differently-abled voters actually turn up to vote. “Then it would be easier to access how polling booths lack accessibility features,” she said.

Another key announcement was the conversion of Election Commission website into one which is friendly for the visually impaired. “The friendly content is being developed using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The visually impaired person will be aided by audio output,” said an EC source. But there was no time frame mentioned on when the website would go online.

Non-availability of ramps was also at the centre of debate. Although the Election Commission maintains that 98 per cent of polling booths in the state have ramps, activists complained that many had temporary ramps which was uncomfortable to use for the differently-abled.

“The surface is often slippery and the approach would be very narrow. Even the gradient of the ramp will be steep. Cement ramps should be built and not temporary ones made of wooden planks,” said P. Simmachandran of Federation of Physically Handicapped Welfare Association.

On the topic of sensitising poll booth staff on persons with disabilities, Rajesh Lakhoni told DC that they have employed differently-abled people to train Collectors, SPs, DIGs and IGs. “All our master trainers were trained by persons with disabilities. We are also shooting a movie on how to handle various types of disabilities by poll staff,” he said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
Next Story