Real action, and not mere “tokenism”, is needed if people with disabilities are to become part of electoral processes more meaningfully, Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said on Wednesday.

“We have to move away from tokenism to real empowerment and real action for ensuring meaningful and purposeful participation [of people with disabilities], not only in elections, but in all issues of governance affecting future participation in elections,” Rawat said, according to PTI.

He was speaking at an international conference on the inclusion of people with disabilities in electoral processes, a day after he took charge as the chief election commissioner.

Priorities for the disabled need to “take centre-stage” during elections in India, he said. The time has come to ensure that they are empowered to participate in elections, and this is essential for inclusive development and growth everywhere, he added.

The Election Commission and the state commissions are finding ways to help the disabled through technology and to provide them easy access to polling booths, Rawat was quoted as saying.

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa said people with disabilities often faced barriers in participation. “These barriers lead to denial of equal access to electoral participation,” Lavasa said. “We need to break these barriers and empower people with disabilities.”