Ahead of the forthcoming governorship election in the state of Osun, the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), has revealed that the agency has made adequate preparations to improve the participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the State.
This was revealed by Prof. Abdulganiy Raji, INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in Osun who made this known at the 7th Access Nigeria Campaign Stakeholders’ Roundtable on Inclusive Elections in Nigeria.
Raji said the equipment had been provided to ensure that the electoral framework and environmental barriers were taken care of.
He said that INEC wanted more inclusive elections and had taken some steps to ensure that PWDs were included in the electoral processes.
According to him, “We are not only preparing Braille ballot papers for visually-impaired persons, what are also providing Braille jackets.
“PWDs will use the same ballot papers that others are using, but the ballot paper will now be inserted into Braille jackets.
“This means that one braille jacket can be used by all visually-impaired persons at a polling unit.
“It is not a matter of printing 174,000 Braille ballot papers, but a jacket will now cover all. We have also made provisions for a considerable number of magnifying glasses in each ward,’’ he said.
Raji added that INEC was also providing sign language interpreters for those with hearing impairment.
He added that INEC would provide specialized torchlights to help albinos see clearly at polling units.
In her remarks, the Disability Inclusion Officer at Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), an NGO, Tracy Onabis, expressed concern that PWDs continued to face significant barriers in participating in elections.
She represented IFA’s Executive Director, Grace Jerry, at the roundtable.
Jerry noted that barriers faced by PWDs discouraged them from participating in elections.
She said the roundtable aimed at securing commitments for the introduction of electoral reforms like the introduction of the Braille ballot guide for the visually-impaired and voting instructions for voters with hearing impairments.
Jerry said the roundtable became imperative because IFA deployed sample-based election observation to the Nov. 6, 2021, Anambra governorship election and noted the barriers PWDs experienced.
“IFA observed that in 34 percent of sampled polling units at the Anambra election, Persons with Disabilities were not given priority to vote in line with INEC’s guidelines.
“It was only in 20 percent of polling units visited that voters with visual impairments used the Braille Ballot guide.
“This number showed that if the Braille ballot guide was available at more polling units, more voters with visual impairments would have been able to use it.
“Access Nigeria observers reported that 54 percent of the routes (roads) leading to the areas where sampled polling units were located were inaccessible for PWDs,’’ she said.
Jerry added that as the 2022 off-cycle governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun approached, the group was confident that electoral stakeholders would once again commit to making the elections accessible for PWDs.