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Activists Demand Politicians Take Notice Of Disability Issues
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 26, 2004

NEW DELHI, INDIA--People with disabilities here who feel ignored by lawmakers and left out of the democratic process have decided to take matters in their own hands.

In addition to taking their message to the streets, they are running for elected office.

Javed Abidi, an activist with the Disabled Rights Group (DRG), is running as an independent candidate in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. He is taking on Culture and Tourism Minister Jagmohan, for "emotional and symbolic reasons", Abidi told the Sunday Tribune.

"We want them to recognize disability as a national issue," Abidi said of lawmakers.

Nearly 1,500 people with disabilities from the state of Orissa gathered recently at the first political convention for persons with disabilities. They came together to discuss the need for politicians to address accessibility, employment, and community inclusion for the country's estimated 60 million citizens with disabilities.

"We want them (politicians) to take notice of us," said Sakina Mushtaq of the New Delhi-based National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People. "They should not treat us like an invisible minority."

First and foremost, the advocates want lawmakers to force changes in the laws regarding accessible voting. Nearly six percent of eligible voters are kept from voting because of barriers to being able to cast a secret ballot, the Tribune noted.

"I overcame all odds to cast my vote once," said Bhanwar Kumar, who has a visual disability. "But what's the point if it's not secret ballot?"

Related:
"Impaired franchise" (Sunday Tribune)

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20040425/spectrum/main2.htm

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