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Disabled voters in Sri Lanka hampered by lack of facilities, say activists

Man in wheelchair trying to overcome the stairs

Disability rights organisations say that more should be done for disabled voters to exercise their franchise at the upcoming presidential election.

According to the National Census it is estimated that 1,617,924 persons live with some form of disability, a sizable amount which can have a direct impact on the results of the election they point out. Where ever possible, polling stations must be situated in buildings that are easily accessible to people with disabilities and temporary ramps can be installed to facilitate accesses, activists point out.

“Some measures have been put in place to provide better physical access to voting centres for the disabled community, but in certain areas accessibility remains a problem as a result people with disabilities are not willing to cast their votes,” Dulip Sampath advocacy officer of the Wellassa organisation of Persons with Disabilities said.

He said presently people with vision disabilities have to inform their voting preferences to a sighted person and trust that person to mark their vote. But what assurance do the voters have whether their vote has been cast correctly, he asked.

People with speech disabilities also face hurdles as they are sometimes unwilling or embarrassed to communicate with the officials and opt not to cast their votes, he added.

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