Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), an organisation promoting rights of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) has urged political parties to make their campaign venues accessible to PWDs and provide sign language interpreters, ahead of the campaigns.
Executive Director, IFA, Grace Jerry, made the call at a news conference to launch a programmes tagged “ VOTE-ABILITY Campaign’’ ahead of the 2023 General: “Increasing the Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Elections”.
Jerry said the launch became necessary with only 150 days to the 2023 General Elections.
She said the Article 29 of the United Nations Convention of Rights of Person With Disabilities (UNCRPD) stipulated that the rights of PWDs should be guaranteed to participate in political and public life ,states parties the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others.
She said the UNCRPD also ensured that PWDs can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right to vote among others.
“It is on the principle of this convention that IFA is launching this campaign to promote the rights, increase electoral participation and well-being of PWDs in all spheres of society with core emphasis around electoral issues.
“The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) across all its project on the VOTE-ABILITY Campaign will advocate for PWDs inclusion by engaging all election stakeholders at various level to be accountable on their statutory responsibilities.
“ These stakeholders include but not limited are; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Security agencies, Political Parties, Media agencies, citizens and with concentration on the community of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
“The VOTE-BILITY Campaign will also serve as the key to holding government accountable to delivering on promises and constitutional responsibilities.’’
Jerry said it was obvious that there have been improvements in electoral process especially around the achievements of the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) which included the introduction of the Braille Ballot Guide (BBG) .
She said this enabled blind voters to vote independently, however, in spite of the provision of PWDs’ voting assistive materials, there was need to emphasise the need for continued engagement.
She said this was because there were still challenges that limited the participation of PWDs in the electoral process.
Jerry said among the challenges faced during the concluded Continuous Voter Registration (CVR),were inaccessible location for party manifestoes, high cost of nomination form in political party that excluded PWDs from participation.
She added that PWDs also faced low reportage from media agencies whose focus were the big names among political candidate.
She said the attitudes of INEC ad hoc staff towards PWDs on Election Day depicted inadequate training before deployment and the low level capturing of the PWD data in the Form EC40H.
Mr Jide Ojo ,Board Member ,IFA ,said the VOTE-BILITY Campaign would engage the three phases of election ,the Pre, during and post-election day phases.
Ojo said the IFA recommended that INEC should consider five per cent recruitment of ad hoc staff according to Sections 28 (1) and 29 of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Prohibition Act 2018.
“There should be priority collection of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) during the distribution of PVCs
“During the training of ad-hoc staff, INEC should collaborate with Organisation of Persons with Disabilities especially on the PWD component.’’
Ojo said these would increase the targeted civic and voter education ahead of the general elections.
He called for the capturing of detailed disability type in a disaggregated format as it is currently on the form EC 40H PWD.
He said that there should be deployment of PWD election assistive aide and such polling units should be made public.
He said the VOTE-BILITY Campaign would access the implementation of Section 54 sub section 1 and 2 Nigeria Electoral Act 2022 to ascertain compliance as provided in the Act.
“These are braille, large embossed print, electronic devices, sign language interpretation, or off-site voting in appropriate cases,” he said.
Ojo said that for the media, the VOTE-BILITY campaign would consistently engage and provide relevant information on PWDs at all times.
He added that IFA would engage security agencies in training their staff on the proper ways of engaging PWDs during election processes.
He said that the VOTE-BILITY Campaign would engage with civil Society organisations and other stakeholders on voter and civic education so as to reduce voter apathy especially within the disability community. (NAN)