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EOC welcomes facilitation measures for people with disabilities and ethnic minorities to cast their votes at polling stations

19/11/2015

With the District Council election coming up this Sunday (22 November 2015), the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) today (19 November 2015) calls on the Government, the relevant Government Departments and frontline workers to take active measures to ensure that the equal voting rights of voters with disabilities or from ethnic communities will not be deprived due to inaccessible polling stations or language barriers.

Dr. York CHOW, Chairperson of the EOC said, “As the statutory organisation tasked with the elimination of discrimination and promotion of equal opportunities, the EOC attaches much importance to the right of all to equal participation in politics and public affairs. The EOC considers that all eligible voters, regardless of their ethnic background or whether they have a disability, should enjoy equal rights to cast their votes. The HKSAR Government has a duty to ensure that the voting process, facilities and information are accessible to everyone, including by providing barrier-free polling stations for people with disabilities and language facilitation measures as needed for voters of ethnic minority backgrounds.”

To better understand what measures have been taken to meet the needs of people with disabilities and ethnic minorities, the EOC met with representatives of the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) previously to receive a presentation from them. Apart from relaying the concerns of voters with disabilities or from ethnic communities, the EOC also uploaded the information about the facilitation measures for voters with disabilities or special needs, such as the REO’s dedicated hotline and website hyperlinks for voters with visual impairment or from ethnic communities, onto the EOC website for public reference after the meeting.

There are 495 ordinary polling stations for this year’s District Council election, more than 94 percent of which are accessible to wheelchair users. The REO will also provide braille lists of candidates and braille templates to help people with visual impairment to cast their votes. They will also provide a pictorial voting aid to assist voters with hearing impairment. Furthermore, in order to meet the needs of voters from ethnic communities, the brief information of the election is made available on the election website in a number of ethnic minority languages, including Hindi, Indonesian, Nepali, Punjabi, Tagalog, Thai, and Urdu. The REO will also provide free telephone simultaneous interpretation service for voters via the Centre for Harmony and Enhancement of Ethnic Minority Residents on the day of the election and in the two weeks prior to the election.

Dr. Chow said, “The EOC is glad to see that the Government has adopted many measures to facilitate people with disabilities and ethnic minorities to cast their votes. However, we also see that that there are still close to 10% polling stations that are inaccessible to wheelchair users. Additionally, only some of the candidates have provided a text version of their ‘Introduction to Candidates’ for uploading onto the election website for reference by people with visual impairment. The EOC calls on relevant parties to provide assistance to people with disabilities or special needs as far as possible, to enable them to participate in the election and exercise their civil and political rights, so that we can together build a truly equal and inclusive society.”

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For media enquiries, please contact Mr. Sam HO at 2106-2187.

Equal Opportunities Commission
19 November 2015

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