Deaf voters demand voter education in sign language

Birat Anupam

Morang, 27 November (2017) –  Amar Limbu, 46, has cast his votes many times—twice for local polls and twice for subsequent elections for the Constituent Assembly. An inhabitant of Sundarharaicha Municipality-6 of Morang district in east Nepal, Limbu is confused about four ballot papers—one for provincial, another for federal and two others for proportional elections for provincial and federal elections.

Amar Limbu

“I have experience of voting but don’t know ways to cast votes in four categories,” says Limbu with the help of sign language interpreter. “It would have been easier to understand if we were taught about voting to choose our candidates in sign languages.”

Limbu is a literate deaf voter but is still in dark about voting methods taught by Election Commission of Nepal.

Not only Limbu, Nischal Shrestha, 21, of Madhumalla of Morang district, shares similar sentiment. Having recently voted for local elections, Shrestha knows how to vote, but he still doesn’t know anything about voting in upcoming elections of federal and provincial level.

Nischal Shrestha

“I know how to vote but don’t know why I have to vote differently this time around,” rues Shrestha. “Voter education in sign language disseminated through television channels and online news portal would be a great help for deaf voters like us,” says Shrestha in writing at Gokulam Resort where he waits tables.

Amar Limu and Nischal Shrestha are literate but still unknown about upcoming elections in details. Both of them agree that it is hard for the deaf to get voting education in traditional textual and visual format.

It is the hardest for illiterate ones to understand voter education. In order to remove this barrier of voter education for deaf voters, these two voters have an idea, i.e. to make voter education materials and information in sign language.

“Sign language can be very helpful for all deaf people—both literate and illiterate,” says Amar Limbu with the help of an interpreter. “It would be nice if television imparts such education everyday during elections.”

According to the 2011 census, Nepal’s population with disabilities stands at 513,321. And 15.4 percent of this populace is deaf, 1.8 percent is deaf and blind and 7.5 percent suffers multiple disabilities.