Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) has tasked media executives to consider disability inclusion in their broadcast and news production to promote inclusive practices, including the consistent utilization of sign language interpretation.
IFA executive-director Grace Jerry also called on the media to make deliberate efforts to conduct voter education that complements the efforts of organizations of persons with disabilities in promoting the participation of PWDs in Nigeria’s electoral and political processes.
While briefing the media on Thursday in Abuja at the Public Presentation of IFA’s 2023 general elections observation report, Grace also recommends more data driven engagements to ensure that Nigeria has an established and proven data of all eligible PWD voters in Nigeria.
According to her, the Vote-Ability Campaign commends all organizations working toward safer, more inclusive free and fair elections in Nigeria.
She said the campaign calls on these organizations to continue to engage with the disability community to ensure their efforts are inclusive and provide opportunities for PWDs to contribute to their work either as advisors to ensure a disability lens on their work or including PWDs as participants in activities.
She said, “it is evident that persons with disabilities want to participate in the electoral and political processes of Nigeria as indicated by their participation as both voters and observers during the general election.
“However, accessibility challenges, stigmas, and stereotypes continue to persist and undermine PWDs abilities to participate in electoral and political activities.
” While INEC has taken great strides to improve its priority voting policy and implement voting accommodations, poll officials consistently fail to understand the significance of inclusion or take actions that promote the participation of all groups.
“IFA commends INEC for its commitments and engagement on these topics, but we at IFA are disheartened by the lack of accessible polling units, insufficient deployment of voting materials for voters with disabilities as evidenced by the deployment of the Braille ballot guides to only 35 percent of the polling units during the general election.
“IFA calls on INEC to implement the above recommendations at the next off-cycle elections. IFA once again wishes to express its appreciation of the INEC Chairman, National Commissioners, Directors, Resident Electoral Commissioners, and desk officers for their continuous support in ensuring that PWDs are included in Nigeria’s political and electoral processes,” he said.
On Access to polling units, she said findings showed that 55 percent of polling units in Nigeria (sampled states) were located in public open spaces, while 45 percent were located in public buildings. Of those polling units including schools, bus stops, markets, court premises, town halls, health centers, etc, 54 percent were found to be inaccessible for voters with disabilities.
She said there are lack of accessible spaces and buildings have larger implications beyond elections. For example, if schools are not accessible for voters, then they are not accessible for students with disabilities.