..Urges INEC To Address Challenges Of PWDs During Elections
The Executive Director of the Centre for Citizens With Disabilities (CCD) David Anyaele has expressed concerns that the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Disability Matters is not functioning in full capacity.
Anyaele, while giving a review of the recent Governorship election in Edo State with respect to the voting capacity of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
He said PWDs encountered a few challenges in their attempt to exercise their franchise, which he said such office as the SSA to the President on Disability Matters.
“I understand there is a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Disability matter has been acting in that capacity for the past for years. According to him, the efficiency of that office isn’t visible, it is necessary to employ experts and consultants, the House of Reps Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila also has an SSA in that capacity who hasn’t been exactly functional,” he said.
According to him, the Edo governorship election revealed some loopholes in the electioneering process.
“This is in the context of the representation of people living with disabilities and the implementation of the Electoral Acts.
According to him, materials that were supposed to be provided for the visually impaired to enhance their participation in the elections were scarcely available.
“Most of the polling units visited by the centre didn’t have tactile ballot papers while a lot more of the adhoc staff didn’t understand the process”.
“People with hearing impairment struggle to deal with priority voting, proper sensitisation needs to be done, within the disability clusters in their respective communities.
“To enhance the participation of persons with disabilities in the country, these measures need to be in place, this is the highlight of section 30 of the Nigerian Persons with Disability Act”.
“In terms of access, persons on wheelchairs couldn’t access stairs cases or cross the open gutters and drainages”.
Anyaele however, commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for putting some measures, which were a great improvement to the last general elections held March 2020.
He commended persons with disability, who in spite of odds, came out to exercise their franchise; the campaign for equal voting has been reinforced.
INEC should engage people with disability. He said giving equal access to persons with disability during elections should be mandatory, rather than discretionary.
He demanded for accountability in the electoral act and process, in terms issues around priority. Section 56(2) of the Electoral Amendment Act 2010 states that the commission may take reasonable steps to ensure that voters with disabilities are assisted at the polling units by provision of suitable means of communication such as Braille, large embossed print or electronic devises or sign language interpreters or off site voting in appropriate places.
According to Section 30 of Persons with Disability Act, INEC is expected to remove all barriers in subsequent elections; these are issue that are being examined.
“We therefore ask the media to investigate and demand accountability for the provision of these facilities to enhance participation of people living with special needs in the overall decision making process of their country”.
He called for collaboration with civil society organisations who have been working in the disability space for several years and are therefore consultants.
“An albino who has battles low visual acuity would need a magnifying glass to be able to see the party logo and so vote appropriately,” he said.
According to him, more than 50% of the polling units visited in Edo state did not have Braille ballot papers, even in units where they were available, the INEC adhoc staff didn’t know how to deploy their use
Anyaele said although there were no sign language interpreters at the polling unit it was only in the state collation centers the sign language interpreters were provided.