By Asma’u Halilu
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has organised a one-day voters education and sensitisation programme for the persons with disabilities in Kaduna State, on the use of braille ballot.
This is in an effort to ensure total inclusiveness ahead of the 2023 forthcoming general election in Nigeria.
The event was aimed at sensitising the visually challenged persons on the use of braille, a form of written language for blind people in which characters are represented by patterns of raised dots that are felt with the fingertips.
Speaking at the event, the Acting Director, Gender and Inclusivity Mrs. Lakunuya Dorathy Bello explained that voting can be difficult for persons with vision impairment, while the potential for error is high, as ballot papers are not produced with their disability in mind.
The Acting Director, represented by Bilksu Abdulsalam explained that voters who are blind or have low vision are particularly at risk of compromised access to printed ballots and other electoral materials essential to participate effectively in electoral processes.
“In recognizing the rights of PWDs as human rights, the Commission within its mandate has taken concrete actions to incorporate PWDs in the electoral process. INEC introduced braille ballot guide for use by voters with visual impairment during the Osun state gubernatorial election in September, 2018.
“The Commission is doing its best to ensure that the electoral process is inclusive and accessible for all eligible Nigerians irrespective of their ability because we understand that democratic process can only be credible and inclusive when all stakeholders are given equal opportunity to participate,” the Acting Director said.
Also, the Kaduna INEC Head of Department Voter Education and Publicity, Rukayyatu Sani said that the Commission has created a level playing ground for everyone to exercise their right.
She mentioned that the reason they gathered all the Leaders was to educate them so that they would in turn, return to their people and sensitise them as well.
Rukayyatu said the Commission was hopeful that, even if most of the PWDs didn’t go to school or have any western education, they can still identify the alphabets to know which party to vote with the little knowledge they have.
“The electoral act has mandated the Commission to provide sensitive materials like the braille for the blind, while those on wheelchair will be assisted round and magnifying glass will be provided for those with albinism,” she stated.
While appreciating the Commission’s effort, Dr. Micah Shabi, the Executive Director, Improvement In Respect To Social Status of Disability disclosed that, it’s a big progress to the Nigerian people with disability and in particular the blind.
He said, the law allows any person with disabilities to bring somebody who can assist them vote the exact person they want to vote for on the election day.
Mr. Micah Shabi, appealed to all PWDs not to see the opportunity given to them as a privilege but as their right and they should start making it known to the public.