On the 22nd of December 2022, the Blind Lead Trust attended a programme conducted by Bearfoot Trust Organization, which was instructed by the District Administration of East Khasi Hills and along with the Election Commission Branch of Meghalaya at the Conference Room of the District Council. It was an awareness programme on how to use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for people with disabilities. The programme was led by one of the staff of Barefoot Trust, viz. Miss Sweet Syiemiong. The program also saw attendees of government officers from different departments like the State Resource Center, Election Commission and the District Administration.
The members provided us with training on how to operate the electronic voting machines and the different methods involved. They also guided us through the rules and regulations to enable all people with disabilities the confidence to act when the time arrives especially since the election is almost coming in our state.
By attending the program, we came to understand that the government has prepared everything for the needs of persons with disabilities related to their accessibility and facilities.
Therefore, we encourage all of our visually impaired community in our state to come and participate in this upcoming election so that they will witness the arrangement of the government through the election commission department in each polling station. We can assure you that it will be 100% accessible! We also beg all persons with disabilities to kindly mark their Voter (ID) that they are visually impaired or hearing impaired or any type of disabilities that you have; doing this will help the workers to solve our problems smoothly. To do that, you can do it by yourselves through the application which was released by the government on the Play Store or app store named (PWD App). You can also learn other benefits from this application. For those who find problems in this matter, you can visit the offices of the association or organization to help you mark your voter-id as per statuses like the Khasi Disability Association (KDA) and Blind Lead Trust Organization (BLT).
In this upcoming election, there is a big change in the process of participation in the polling station where the citizens can vote from their homes ( through Balot paper) or from their place of work, including the persons with disabilities who have trouble in travelling to the polling stations due to their disabilities. But we from the organization request our friends who are visually impaired to avoid voting from home. The government will also provide a vehicle for pick up and drop back for this in every polling station the volunteers are there to guide the persons with disabilities or another type of helper called BLOs, moreover, if a person with disabilities cannot go for a vote by him/her self and if they need assistant or volunteer to take them till the polling box, for that person the government have ensured that before they can take this decision they have to sign one kind of form to make sure that they could not share to anyone whom the persons with disabilities have voted. All of that guidance has been set by the government. On that day they are well trained, which means they must know how to guide blind people or other types of disabilities. They will also put the notice which is written in the Braille Dots which they called the blind alphabet where they can read and check by themselves before they enter to vote for any candidates. And not just that the polling machine also has braille dots in each of the buttons on the left side, which means that if any visually impaired are coming to participate he or she needs to check it hence they have to know beforehand whom they will vote for and what is the numbers of their candidates. For instance, if he or she is no. 1 or no. 2, etc.
At the end of the program, there was a panel discussion between the government officers and the leaders of the NGOs, in this part we are from our organization Shri. Jitendra Dkhar who is co-founder and managing director of Blind Lead Trust has present at the discussion. At the same time, all of the NGOs agreed to what the government had prepared for persons with disabilities to participate in the upcoming election through the election commission department of Meghalaya, India.
We from the organization appreciated the government for their concern and included us in the same rights in our country to participate in voting. This is something great that we are witnessing where persons with disabilities are considered and benefitted by the government from time to time. We hope that as we have got the opportunity in the election and then the same things will happen for development in the upcoming years. We are happy to see that blind person will easily participate in the election of the state of Meghalaya