The recently concluded Lok Sabha elections were the “most historic” and inclusive as every person, including those with disabilities, were able to exercise their right to vote, India said at an annual United Nations conference on ‘Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ on Tuesday, reported PTI.

Shakuntala Doley Gamlin, the secretary in the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, said: “India just recently concluded the most historic, inclusive general election wherein a wide a range of facilities were provided to make the polling stations more inclusive and accessible to ensure that all can exercise their right to vote.”

She underlined India’s commitment to provide an enabling environment to citizens with disabilties. “India remains firmly committed to providing a universal enabling environment for persons with disabilities to fulfil their rights equally with others and realise their full potential,” Gamlin said. “And in creating a fully inclusive country where all enjoy equal rights.”

The Lok Sabha elections for 543 seats were held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19. The results were declared on May 23.

Gamlin highlighted the facilities provided to people with disabilities such as obstacle-free access to voting compartment, accessible toilets, separate entry and exit, braille ballot guide, braille embossed electronic voting machines and voter slips, wheelchairs as well as free local public transport facility and priority entry to polling stations.

Gamlin said improving the mobility of people with disabilities was an ongoing endeavour of the Indian government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the “Accessible India Campaign” in 2015 to provide them with universal accessibility by creating barrier-free environment, she added.

The government was also going to establish a National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation and a Centre for Disability Sports to solve problems pertaining to psycho-social disabilities and to promote sports among disabled sportspersons, Gamlin added.

Gamlin said the Indian government has undertaken the implementation of Unique Disability ID project, which will create a national database and ensure that every person with disabilties receives a unique ID card so that they can avail of contemporary modern aids and assistance devices.

United Nations on disability inclusion

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced at the conferene that a new UN Disability Inclusion Strategy was going to be launched “to raise the standards of the UN’s performance on disability inclusion across the board, and action to bring about the unified and transformative change we need”. He added that disability inclusion was not only a fundamental human right but also “central to the promise” of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

“Realising the rights of persons with disabilities is a matter of justice as well as a common-sense investment in our common future”, the UN chief said, but “we have a long way to go in changing mindsets, laws and policies to ensure these rights”.

Guterres urged the people participating to make the goals and the objectives of the convention “a reality on the ground”.

“My hope,” he said in conclusion, “is that people with disabilities – particularly women and girls – one day live in a world that protects, respects and values us.”