The Access Nigeria Campaign is a disability rights movement led by Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), for and on behalf of Nigeria’s 30 million Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). The goal of the Campaign is to increase the participation of PWDs in Nigeria’s political, electoral and governance processes, and ensure the full implementation of the 2022 Electoral Act, as amended.
Recent Outcome of the Campaign.
The main goal of the Access Nigeria Campaign is to improve the participation of PWDs in Nigeria’s political, electoral, and governance processes.. Through the campaign’s engagements, IFA has carried out advocacies to relevant stakeholders, and influenced the following:
Broad deployment of the Election Day written instructions (Form EC30EPWD) for use by voters with different forms of disabilities.
Increased recruitment of PWDs as INEC ad-hoc staff on Election Day (recorded from the just concluded presidential elections, 26% of ad-hoc staff deployed at the observed PUs are persons with disabilities in the just concluded February 25th general elections. This satisfies the IFA’s demand, and is in fulfillment to the requirements of Section 29 of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Act (2018)
Increased participation of PWDs in politics (32 PWDs are contesting in the 2023 general elections both at the national and state level)
Increased knowledge of electoral processes within the PWD communities through the Get out the Vote radio jingle and voter education outreaches.
Influenced the amendment of the Electoral Act to make it mandatory for INEC to provide assistive materials for
IFA through its Access Nigeria campaigns conducted Nigeria’s first, second, third, and fourth-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 February 25th, 2023 General Elections was 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 PWD assistive materials on election day to cast their votes without any form of barriers, hence this election becomes historic. Howbeit, IFA’s observation for the February 2023 general elections showed that 60% of PUs reported had no braille ballot guide for blind voters who could read and understand braille to cast their vote. In 76% of PUs observed, IFA observers reported the non-deployment of magnifying glasses for voters with albinism and low vision. This, therefore, means there is more that needs to be done by INEC in compliance with section 54 of the Electoral Act as amended in the March 18th state governorship and state house of assembly elections.
Electoral Barriers for PWDs
Despite making up 15% of Nigeria’s population, and the provision of the Electoral Act mandating INEC to provide PWD election assistive materials, Nigerians with disabilities in previous elections including the just concluded February 25,th 2023 general 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, 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 for the March 18th, 2023, Governorship, and state House of Assembly Elections
The IFAs Access Nigeria Campaign makes the following call to action for stakeholders across Nigeria for peaceful, accessible, and credible elections.
Persons with Disabilities
The 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’s Access Nigeria Campaign calls on INEC to stand by its commitment to providing the Braille ballot guide during the march 18th 2023 governorship and state house of Assembly election.
INEC should also guarantee the provision of other PWD-friendly election materials including the Election Day written instructions (EC 30 E PWD), 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 ensure that they harvest the data of persons with disabilities recorded in form EC40H to further guide the deployment of assistive materials.
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.
All Resident Electoral Commissioners should ensure the effective deployment of the assistive materials to the designated polling units in their various states.
The IFA 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 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.
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 media should make deliberate efforts to intensify voter education in this final hour, to compliments the efforts of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in promoting the participation of PWDs.
Media executives should consider disability inclusion in their broadcast and news production to promote inclusive practices in Nigeria including the consistent utilization of sign language interpretation.
We commend INEC for taking steps to make elections in Nigeria more inclusive especially in the recruitment of PWDs to serve as ad hoc staff as observed and reported by our observers in the just concluded February 25th, 2023, general elections. This satisfies the IFA’s demand and meets the requirements of Section 29 of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities Act 2018.
We call on INEC, especially the RECs to take deliberate steps in the forthcoming governorship and state assembly elections to ensure the effective deployment and usage of assistive materials as mandated by the electoral Act 2022.
Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association and