In compliance with the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, and the Electoral Act 2022 (amended), the electoral commission commit efforts to provide assisted materials for PWDs to ensure access and an independent voting process for PWDs in the 2023 general elections. According to the commission’s report, 21,165 magnifying glasses will be provided for persons with albinism and low vision, 8,117 Braille ballots for blind voters who are able to read braille; and 6,167 EC30E PWD posters (a pictorial election instruction for deaf voters and other electorates).
The vote-Ability is a disability rights movement led by Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) for Nigeria’s 30 million persons with disabilities (PWDs). The goal of the Campaign is to increase the participation of PWDs in Nigeria’s political and electoral processes and ensure the full implementation of the 2022 electoral Act as amended.
2023 General Election: IFA-led vote-Ability Campaign to Deploy 250 Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) Observers to measure the deployment of PWD assistive materials, Usage of PWD voter assistive Materials, accessibility to and of the internal layout of polling units amongst others.
IFA through its campaigns conducted Nigeria’s first-ever polling unit accessibility audits to better understand the challenges that PWDs face on Election Day and to conduct evidence-based advocacy based on the representative data collected. The 2023 General Elections will be the first General Election of the country since the signing of the 2022 Electoral Act which birthed the provision mandating the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide PWDs with aid that provides their vote without any form of barriers, hence this election become historic.
In the planned General Elections, the IFA Vote-Ability Campaign will deploy carefully recruited and trained PWD observers who will be observing at their Pre-Assigned Polling Unit and reporting to a Data Center through the use of technology in near real-time. The information provided will enable IFA to provide the electoral umpire with quick information where its intervention is required to ensure there are no PWDs disenfranchised from voting.
The campaign observers will prioritize deploying to polling units that INEC has identified as locations where it will be deploying PWDs assistive materials such as magnifying glasses for persons with albinism and voters with low vision, braille ballot guide for blind voters and form EC30E PWD posters for deaf voters.
The 250 PWDs voters are spread across the following States: Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, Lagos, Oyo, and Ogun for the South-west region, Kaduna, Kano, and Sokoto for the North West, Plateau, for the North Central, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Taraba for Northeast, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, and Akwa Ibom for South-South, Anambra, Abia, for the South East zone, and the FCT, Abuja.
Electoral Barriers for PWDs
Despite making up 15% of Nigeria’s population, Nigerians with disabilities in previous elections have documented barriers at various stages such as Polling units not always accessible to voters with physical impairments, absence of ramps and handrails for use by PWDs, inadequate deployment of Form EC30E PWDs for deaf voters, Braille Ballot Guide for Blind Voters and magnifying glasses for persons with albinism and low vision, and general polling unit layout which makes it difficult for PWDs with physical impairment.
Call to Action
The IFA Vote-Ability Campaign makes the following call to action for stakeholders in across Nigeria for peaceful, accessible, and credible elections.
Persons with Disabilities
The IFA Vote-Ability Campaign calls on all PWDs that are registered to vote and have their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to go out in mass and vote for the candidates of their choice. Voting remains one of the major ways to influence policies that would shape their lives.
PWDs should take safety precautions by leaving voting places when they begin to sense any danger to their lives. They should call designated security numbers when safely out of danger. Our message to the PWD community is to encourage you to vote, but in doing prioritize your safety.
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
The IFA Vote-Ability Campaign calls on INEC to stand by its commitment to providing the Braille ballot guide during the nation’s General election.
INEC should also guarantee the provision of other PWD-friendly election materials including the Election Day written instructions (EC 30 E PWD), and magnifying glasses, and Braille Ballot Guide.
INEC should ensure effective and consistent use of Form EC40H to capture disaggregated data of PWDs voting on Election Day in line with their type of disabilities.
INEC should fully enforce its policy of priority voting for PWDs so that PWDs are not required to stand in line for long hours as witnessed in previous elections.
The IFA Vote-Ability Campaign calls on the Police and other security agencies to protect all voters and election observers, especially those with disabilities. Voters and election observers with disabilities face peculiar mobility and other challenges that make it difficult or impossible for them to run to safety during election-related violence and chaos. We are making a special appeal on behalf of the 250 observers with disabilities that we will deploy on Election Day.
We rely on the assurances from the Inspector General of Police but wish to reiterate this call in view of the security challenges the nation faces ahead of the general election.
We call on the media to focus on how PWDs are faring as they report on the nation’s election. We understand that the media is often more fixated on election outcomes or results, but wish to note that their reports will be incomplete if they fail to pay due attention to a huge constituency like PWDs. Nigerians need to know what was done to accommodate PWDs, and the media is the gateway to achieving that.
The IFA Vote-Ability Campaign promotes social and human rights approaches to disability, which see barriers within society as the impairment, and not a person’s disability. We believe the rights of PWDs are human rights and are protected under our constitution and international conventions. PWDs do not want pity, but to enjoy full participation in Nigeria’s electoral and political processes. This cannot be possible without inclusive electoral processes for all.
Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association and
Convener, of the IFA Vote-Ability Campaign