Persons with Disabilities Enjoy Innovations at Polls
Published: March 7, 2019, 3:07 p.m.
Many eligible voters with disabilities expressed surprise over innovations introduced at polling units during the recent presidential elections.
“I couldn’t believe that a poor man like me will be attended to before others,” said Moses Ayu, a physically challenged voter. “For the first time in my life, I felt important.’’
Hundreds of persons with disabilities exercised their civic rights during the Saturday, 23 February presidential election. Priority voting, written instructions and Braille ballot guides were among the innovations.
Access Nigeria marks progress
Inclusive Friends Association has championed the Access Nigeria Campaign for about two years. The campaign aims to increase the participation of persons with disabilities in Nigeria’s political and electoral processes. The campaign achieves it aims through advocacy to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the National Assembly and other stakeholders.
Many vote independently for first time
Ujah Sulaiman, chairman Joint National Association of Persons with Disability Abuja chapter, said before the recent election voters with disabilities relied on others to help them vote. But now, voters with hearing impairments like Sulaiman can vote independently using written instructions pasted on polling center walls.
“I feel very good. I feel like a complete citizen” he said.
Step toward inclusive elections
Amina Zakari, INEC commissioner on the health and welfare committee, said a free and fair election must be inclusive and that INEC is happy about Access Nigeria. The commission hopes to build on progress made im 2019 so that there are even more improvements in 2023.
IFA Executive Director Grace Jerry says more work lies ahead. For example, electoral officials did not deploy magnifying glasses for visually impaired voters and the albinos at any of the polling units.
She urged INEC to implement all of the recommendations her organization made in its Disability Votes Matter report. The report contains observations made by people with disabilities during the 2016 governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.
“We will be glad if INEC considers all of the recommendations of the Disability Votes Matter report,” said Jerry. “That way, Nigeria’s democracy will be strengthened.”
For voters like Moses Ayu, the recent innovations are a welcome development and a sign of a better Nigeria.