Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) to provide assistive materials for Persons Living With Disabilities (PWDs) during the June 18 governorship in Ekiti State, for them to participate seamlessly.
IFA also charged PWDs to come out en masse to vote for candidates of their choice in the election.
They made the call at a town hall meeting organized under the IFA’s Access Nigeria Campaign Get Out the Vote (GOTV) for Persons with Disabilities, media and stakeholders in Ado-Ekiti on Wednesday.
The stakeholders appealed to INEC to strengthen the voting rights of PWDs and make multiple accessible voting methods available to all voters in every election.
The various clusters of the PWDs narrated their experiences over the years and called for improved awareness and training of INEC ad -hoc staff on how to relate with PWDs.
They urged INEC to partner with security agencies to give support and security to PWDs, and provide assistive materials such as Braille Ballot, Magnifying glasses for Albinos, place ballot boxes at accessible places, among others.
Speaking at the meeting, the State Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mrs Olawumi Famuyiwa, promised to ensure greater participation of PWDs in the election.
She said that NOA had taken into consideration the electoral rights of every citizen and taken steps to remove barriers that restrict full participation of PWDs as voters and candidates.
The Chairman of, Joint National Association of Persons Living With Disabilities (JONAPWD), Kayode Owolabi, said the association has put in place measures to ensure that its members were included in the electoral process in the country.
He said that INEC had promised to provide Braille Ballot Guide and magnifying glasses for visually impaired persons for the election.
The JONAPWD chairman assured that special queues would be maintained on the election day to give priority to persons with disabilities to cast their votes with dignity and privacy.
The Convener, who is also the Executive Director, IFA, Grace Jerry, said the meeting was organized towards ensuring that every registered voters, including PWDs, exercise his or her civic rights without any hindrance.
She said the meeting was to enable PWDs serve as voter educators and joined INEC in preaching and educating people in their communities to ensure that no eligible voter would be disenfranchised during the election.
Jerry said that the association would take the campaign to all PWDs communities across the 16 local government areas in the state to deepen voter education at the grassroots.
The Nigeria Union Of Journalists (NUJ), Ekiti State Council, represented by the State Secretary, Mr Kayode Babatuyi, noted that the role of INEC in a democracy is to conduct free, fair, credible and inclusive election.
He said that the electoral body was also expected to provide an enabling environment for all eligible citizens irrespective of gender, tribe and disability to exercise their constitutional rights and privileges to vote and be voted for during election.
He said the union remains a strong voice at ensuring that PWDs are mainstreamed into the electoral process.
The Country Director, National Democratic Institute, Dr Steve Snook, represented by the Programme Officer, Judith Edosa, promised to continue to support programmes that would make life better for PWDs.
The meeting was attended by officials of INEC, NOA, NUJ, Security Agencies, leaders of PWDs and donor agencies.