Coalition of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders to improve on election venues and facilities to enhance their voting on election day.
This is contained in a research report titled: “Leave No One Behind: Disability Votes Count Campaign” that was conducted during the just concluded Edo State Governorship election.
The Edo accessibility audit was the first representative data collection process on the barriers that PWDs face during elections in sub-Saharan Africa.
Senior Program Officer of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) Bem Aga said the audit was conducted by PWD observers deployed at sampled 252 polling units (PUs) across the 18 local government and 192 wards in the state.
“The audit revealed widespread accessibility barriers for PWDs which NDI’s partners will now commence evidence-based advocacy to address,” he said.
The report jointly signed by the Executive Director Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) David Anyaele and the Executive Director Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) Grace Jerry stated that 65 percent of PUs was situated in a location that was in accessible for PWDs, while ramps and handrails were not available for their useat in 94 percent of PUs observed.
“Elevated corridors posed a barrier in 22 percent of PUs observed, gutters served as a barrier in 10 percent o and in 43 percent of polling stations observed multiple barriers rendered polling units inaccessible.
In 96 percent of PUs, observers reported that Election Day instructions/procedures were not explained in sign language to PWDs."
“Similarly, in 90 percent instructions and guidelines were not posted for the benefit of the hearing impaired. In 48 percent of PUs where PWDs were observed voting PWDs could not independently cast their votes because of the placement of the ballot box,” the report stated.
The coalition among others therefore urged the National Assembly to appropriate funds in the national budget for Braille ballots, accessible voting cubicles, written instructions and sign language interpreters to enable PWDs to participate effectively electoral processes.