Two million voters have restricted mobility

Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera, voluntary disability rights activist and Advisor on Accessibility says that of the estimated 14.5 million eligible voters, around two million are estimated to have restricted mobility and visual impairment. However, that diverting ability of the people to move, hear or see is inevitable and normal in every society, he insists.

Dr. Ajith Perera

“Then there are those who have temporary restricted mobility such as arthritis, hip and leg problems, those who have undergone by pass surgery etc. Also Sri Lanka has the fastest ageing population with the number of those over 65 years rapidly moving towards 17%. So it is important to know to what extent consideration has been given to people with such conditions in selecting the polling stations,” said Dr. Perera.

Dr. Perera who was instrumental in getting the Supreme Court ruling on public buildings providing the disabled with proper access says that recognizing their right for voting and recognizing their right to access to polling booths which are public places are the two main components that need to be addressed.

People with visual impairments should be empowered by law to be accompanied by someone of their choice, he adds. “Blind voters are being assisted by the officers at the polling stations, yet sometimes there is a serious doubt in their minds if their choice is being marked properly,” he says.

This disability rights activist also emphasizes that it is equally important to give adequate publicity about the facilities available for the disabled voters so as to encourage them to come out and cast their ballot.

Dr. Perera prepared a simple check list as a guideline for such voters and had sent it to the Commissioner of Elections who had responded by instructing the District Returning Officers to pay attention to this factor and make arrangements to provide whatever the facilities available for such voters at the recently concluded elections.

With the General Elections coming up Dr. Perera is hopeful that necessary measures will be implemented further for the visually and physically impaired voter to cast their vote freely without discrimination.

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