Pakistan’s First Accessibility Audit of Polling Stations in NA-4
By Pakistan Alliance for Inclusive Elections (PAIE)
Only 5% of the polling stations in NA-4 meet essential accessibility criteria
This report is issued by Pakistan Alliance for Inclusive Elections (PAIE) to share findings of Accessibility Audit of polling stations in NA-4. The exercise has been conducted by PAIE during October 16-21, 2017. A trained team of observers visited polling stations that were selected by a scientifically drawn sample.
Accessibility audit of NA-4 polling stations rings alarms, as 95% do not meet the essential accessibility criteria. This implies that persons with disabilities (PWDs), elderly and sick will not be able to make it to 95% of the polling stations on October 26 by-election in Peshawar.
The team started by observing the approach to the polling station building; statistics reveal that 42% polling stations do not have a firm and obstacle free passage leading to the building. The 75% buildings do not provide a level access to the entrance of polling station. Moreover, to worsen the situation, 93% of the polling stations not having level access also do not possess a ramp to facilitate wheel chair users in entering the polling station. In 12% cases protruding objects out side the polling stations cause obstacle on the way.
Although 98% of the entrance gates are far wide enough to clear minimum standard of 32″, but on Election Day other smaller gates are likely to remain open instead of these larger gates. Those smaller gates possess multiple problems; firstly the lesser opening width than minimum standard of 32″, secondly the iron bar at lower edge of the metal gates that is always thicker than maximum door threshold standard of 6mm, thirdly the lower edge bar of the gates is generally two to three inches higher than ground causing another obstacle. In this scenario if the ECP staff does not open larger gates for PWDs then 100% polling stations will automatically become inaccessible for them.
The survey further revealed that the interior building and outer entrance of 85% polling stations were not on same level and no ramps or other facilities exist to facilitate the movement of PWDs. This implies that even if the PWDs and elderly cross the main gate of the building 85% polling station buildings will still pose challenge to them and they will have to cross stairs to reach the polling area.
Another obstruction for the persons with reduced visibility can be poor lighting. Availability of lighting at the entrance becomes more important when the election laws require presiding officer to display the results on entrance of the polling station after the counting process. Only 17.5% of the polling stations possess exterior lighting arrangement, leaving 82.5% sampled polling station entrance unlit at the time of low visibility.
The study further reveals that 95% of the sampled polling stations do not meet all the essential accessibility criteria but 87% of these inaccessible polling stations can be easily modified and made completely accessible. This conversion would only require minute changes like construction of small ramps at entrance gate and in inner building, leveling of pathway in front of polling stations, removal of protruding objects from pathway and interior building, and finally by instructing the security staff to allow PWDs to pass through larger gate.
PAIE members have expressed the hope that ECP would immediately react to the urgent need and get these minor changes done to make all polling stations accessible before the by-election in NA-4.
About PAIE: Pakistan Alliance for Inclusive Elections (PAIE) is a group of civil society organisations mainly comprising disabled persons’ organisations (DPOs). Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) hosts secretariat of PAIE in Islamabad.