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Braille voter slips empower visually impaired voters

The Braille voter information slip introduced in 2019 has allowed visually impaired persons to exercise their franchise in secrecy, unlike earlier times when they had to take help from those with sight, several persons associated with the initiative said.

Incidentally, the number of visually impaired voters in Maharashtra has gone up from 48,000 to 1,16,518 in the past five years, including 10,835 in Pune district, 8,590 in Thane, 3371 in Mumbai’s suburban district, and 1,253 in the island city, officials pointed out.

“We are printing Braille voter information slip to allow visually impaired persons to exercise their franchise in secrecy. The NAB and Election Commission have collaborated on this. It is a great boon for the visually impaired,” NAB (National Association for the Blind) Honorary Secretary Vimal Kumar Dengla told PTI on Friday.

“The NAB has been working since 1952 to empower the visually impaired and has taken various steps to ensure they are included in the mainstream. To help them vote, we have been printing ballot papers in our Braille press, which is the largest,” NAB Executive Director Pallav Kadam said.

“When the visually impaired voter submits the Braille slip in the polling counter, a dummy ballot paper is given to him or her. There are Braille markings on the EVM as well. Earlier, the visually impaired could not vote in secrecy as they needed to take help from others,” Kadam said.

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The NAB official said visually impaired voters were sent to Ruia College in March to check EVMs as part of poll training, adding that Braille voter information slip is being given to polling centres across all districts in Maharashtra.

“Due to advancement in technology, many visually impaired persons are qualified and educated and do not want to seek help from others to exercise their right to vote. Incidentally, Maharashtra has the highest number of visually impaired voters,” Kadam said.

Explaining the nitty-gritty of the initiative, she said data of visually impaired voters is collected by NAB officials in Excel sheet from all districts, which is then converted to Word format and then to Braille using Duxbury Braille translator.

“Editing and proof reading is done before printing the voter slips. The visually impaired person takes the Braille voter slip to the polling station where it will be verified by the volunteers. The visually impaired voter will be given the dummy Braille ballot paper and then allowed to cast their votes with help of the Braille markings of the EVM,” she said.

Visually impaired Mangala told PTI the initiative has come as a boon to people like her since she can vote without help and that too in secrecy.

“Earlier, I had to tell the person helping me who I was voting for. The Braille ballot paper was introduced in 2009. We used to be given the candidates list in Braille. The Braille voter slip introduced in 2019 helps us to vote in secrecy,” Mangala said.

Edited by Swetha Kannan

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