To Make Polls Inclusive, EC Launches Sign Language Training of Its Officials

From training officials in sign language, to having sign language windows for hearing impaired voters, and braille voter identity cards and voter slips for visually challenged electors, several initiatives have been lined up for the upcoming polls.

New Delhi: A sign language training session was organised by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday in collaboration with Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre at its headquarters in keeping with its efforts to make the upcoming assembly and Lok Sabha elections accessible for all. The ECI had following the National Consultation on Accessible Elections in July this year declared that for the the use of the hearing-impaired voters, sign language windows will also be provided in all audio-visual training and awareness content of the Commission.

During the training programme in sign language, the officers were imparted knowledge on basic as well as election related sign languages symbols such as ‘election’, ‘identity card’, ‘address’ and ‘polling booth’.

Besides, information related to basic etiquette while conversing with persons with disabilities (PwDs) was also shared by experts from ISLRTC with the officials of the Commission.

During the session, the officials were also sensitised on the needs of the persons with hearing impairment. As part of the programme, a polling scenario was recreated to enable the officials better understand what was required of them while dealing with voters with hearing disabilities. The idea of this exercise was also to acquaint the officials with the issues that concern and the questions that are frequently by such voters.

The Election Commission said the aim of the workshop was to sensitise election officials to the needs of persons with disabilities so as to enable them respond in a better way to their needs and facilitate them during the election process.

In July 2018 this year, the Election Commission had held a two-day “National Consultation on Accessible Elections” where it had declared a series of facilitation measures for PwDs, including training and sensitisation of election officials.

At the end of that consultation, the Commission had spoken about covering the various needs of PwDs suffering from different disabilities.

For the hearing impaired, it had stated that sign language windows will be provided in all audio-visual training and awareness content of the commission.

For the visually-challenged electors, the Commission had stated that it would be issuing braille voter identity cards.

Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat had also spoken about establishing auxiliary polling stations during elections for persons with disabilities. He had stated that a mobile app would also be developed in-house for such voters to facilitate their participation in the election process.

The CEC had also spoken about appointing “disability coordinators” at the assembly constituency, district and state levels. Furthermore, he had stated that all election-related awareness material as also photo voter slips would also made available in “accessible formats” for all such voters.