Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has lamented that Persons With Disabilities constitute the category of marginalised groups along with women and youths.
It however said Nigeria is the first in Africa to include Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in elections.
The commission noted that all barriers to their inclusion must be dismantled.
INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu made the disclosure yesterday at a campaign to promote the mainstreaming of Persons With Disabilities in the electoral process, organised by the Albino Foundation in Abuja yesterday.
In partnership with the disability community, Yakubu said INEC would continue to promote inclusivity, not in a symbolic but practical way.
He said the emphasis of the commission was not just on their participation as candidates during elections in particular but involvement in the electoral process in general.
Already, the INEC helmsman said the commission had taken several practical steps to promote inclusivity.
Yakubu said the campaign to reduce voter apathy and promote the mainstreaming of Persons with Disabilities in the electoral process was a laudable initiative.
He said that PWDs are citizens and have the right to participate in all areas of human activity without stigma or discrimination.
“The National Population Commission (NPC) estimates that at least nineteen (19) million Nigerians are living with disabilities. From our records, many of them are registered voters.
“We owe it a duty to our democratic and electoral processes as well as national growth and development to encourage their active participation as citizens with equal rights.
“They constitute the category of marginalised groups along with women and youths. Therefore, all barriers to their inclusion must be dismantled.
“I recall that a few years ago, the commission accredited PWDs as election observers. By this decision, Nigeria became the first country in Africa where PWDs in their own right observed elections beginning with the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections in 2016,” he said.
“One of the progressive provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 is the specific provision on the participation of PWDs in the electoral process. Section 54 provides for assistive and inclusive devices which in a sense has codified some of the initiatives already undertaken by the Commission,” he said.
He said the introduction of assistive devices such as the Braille ballot guide, magnifying glasses, and posters for the deaf were all products of our engagement with the disability community.
He said, “On our part, we have also gathered data on disability from the last voter registration exercise disaggregated by type of disability. For instance, we now know the percentages of new registrants with albinism, blindness, hearing challenges, spinal cord injuries, Down syndrome, little stature, etc.