By Janice Malachi
Blind voters in Osun State experienced something new during the September 22 off-cycle elections – they exercised their civic rights without any form of assistance or interference.
That’s because the Access Nigeria campaign helped provide them with Braille ballot guides for the first time in Nigeria’s history.
“It is unbelievable! I get to vote without relying on anyone to help me,” said Steven Oluwafemi, Chairman of Osun State Association for the Blind.
Access Nigeria works to improve the participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria’s political and electoral processes. The campaign engages with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Assembly, and other relevant pubic institutions.
In addition to Braille ballots, the campaign also provided voters with form EC30 PWD – written Election Day instruction for the hard of hearing. There also was an effort to collect information about the number of voters with disabilities in Osun and their specific types of disability via form EC40H.
“Our hope is that the data collected will help INEC better meet the needs of disabled voters come 2019,” said Jesse John, Inclusive Friends Association’s Program Officer. “We want our electoral system to be as inclusive as possible by removing all the barriers in Nigeria’s polling units.
In July, Access Nigeria successfully led a Get Out the Vote campaign in Ekiti State. The effort successfully mobilized over 150 disabled voters in Ikere Local Government Area.
“Recent polling innovations and record turnout by voters show we are gradually and steadily making progress,” said Grace Jerry, convener of Access Nigeria and Executive Director of Inclusive Friends Association.
The National Democratic Institute, USAID and UK Aid support Access Nigeria.
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