PESHAWAR: Out of the total 269 polling stations set up for the NA-4 by-polls, 95 per cent lack essential accessibility criteria for people with disabilities [PWDs], elders and sick people, an audit report revealed.
The survey, conducted by sister foundation of Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, the Pakistan Alliance for Inclusive Elections [PAIE], through October 16 to October 22, found that only five per cent of the total polling stations were accessible while 42 per cent did not have obstacle free passage leading to the centre.
The report, seen by The Express Tribune, also found that 75 per cent of the buildings did not have level access to the entrance – adding that 93 per cent of those without level access also lacked a ramp to facilitate wheelchair users.
“In 12 per cent cases protruding objects outside the polling stations cause obstacle on the way while 98 per cent of the entrance gates are far wide enough to clear minimum standard of 32 inches,” the report stated while highlighting that smaller gates were likely to be opened than larger ones on the day of elections.
“If the ECP staff does not open larger gates for PWDs then all polling stations will automatically become inaccessible for them.”
The study also highlighted poor lighting. “Only 17.5 per cent of the polling stations possess exterior lighting arrangement, leaving 82.5 per cent sampled polling station entrance unlit at the time of low visibility.”
While the research revealed 95 per cent of the polling stations do not meet the criteria, it also found that 87 per cent of these building could be modified to meet essential requirements with minor changes such as construction of ramps at entrance, leveling of pathway, removal of protruding objects from inside the building and allowing PWDs to pass through larger gates.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Raja Shoaib Akbar, senior programme manager at CPDI, said the study could help concerned departments to make polling stations accessible for everyone. PAIE members urged the ECP to resonate the changes before general elections 2018.