By Janice Malachi
Record Turnout for People with Disabilities in Ekiti Elections
- IFA led Community Outreach to boost disability vote
- Team of observers identify useful tips for 2019 election
- Grace Jerry appreciates INEC and JONAPWD
158 persons with disabilities (PWDs) voted in at the AUD Nursery and Primary school polling unit (003) in Ikere LGA as part of the Ekiti state elections. This is a record turnout and a huge improvement over the Anambra November 18 elections when only 4 PWDs participated in each polling unit.
“This is the beginning of true democracy in Nigeria,” said Grace Jerry, executive director of Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) and the Convener of the Access Nigeria campaign. “But more can be done, especially as the Osun elections draw near.”
Forum unites PWD advocates
IFA led an effort to get out the vote in Ekiti state, including a Get Out the Votes forum on June 24. The focus of the forum was to devise a clear strategy for motivating persons with disabilities to vote in and observe the July 14 elections.
Forum participants came from the 16 LGAs of the state. They were joined by staff from the National Democratic Institute (NDI), International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Coordinator of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Ekiti, Mr. Dayo Famosaya and the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Professor Abdulganiyu Raji.
On July 11, Access Nigeria conducted a Community Outreach to school for the Bind, Ikere where the campaign met with over 80 youths with disabilities and motivated them to mobilize their peers to vote on Election Day. The outreach had IFA staff, JONAPWD members and teachers who participated.
Simple changes help boost participation
The forum helped to introduce some simple changes to some polling units that made them more accessible for voters with disabilities. These include:
- Offering priority voting for people with disabilities
- Providing magnifying glasses for voters with albinism and visual impairment
- Having Election Day written instructions for voters with trouble hearing
- Collecting the data of voters with disabilities to prepare for future elections
During the election, IFA deployed Access Nigeria observers to polling units to record the use of these innovations. Observers included staff from the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) Ekiti and IFA.
On the plus side, observers noted that nearly all of the polling units they visited (95%) collected data about voters with disabilities. Nearly 70% of the units had written instructions for voters with hearing impairment. In addition, some 64% of units gave persons with disabilities priority in voting and over half (53%) had routes that could be accessed easily by those with difficulty walking.
Observers recommend improvements
However, election officials can do more to increase access for those with visual impairment. Observers saw magnifying glasses in only 2% of the polling units they visited.
By the end of the election, out of the 58 polling units visited by the observers at least 5 persons with disabilities voted in each of the polling units.
Access Nigeria observers shared the following recommendations with INEC:
- Deploy and use Form EC40H at all polling units to capture PWDs data for elections planning.
- Use Form EC30PWD in all polling units in Osun to improve the turnout of voters with hearing impairment during the elections.
- Provide magnifying glasses to all polling units during the September 22 elections in Osun for voters with albinism and impaired vision.
- Train polling officials on ways to manage and interact with voters with disabilities during elections.
Grace Jerry thanked INEC for improving the polling unit set up to provide form EC30PWD and priority voting which assisted a lot of PWDs to vote in good time. She also, appreciated the Chairman of the Ekiti state Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), the Executive Director of You & I Foundation and all other JONAPWD members who observed PWD participation and access to polling units for PWDs in this election.
Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association
and Convener Access Nigeria Campaign.