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Osun: PWDs celebrate first election participation

Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) under the auspices of the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), says the participation of its members in Nigeria’s election for the first…

Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) under the auspices of the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), says the participation of its members in Nigeria’s election for the first time, especially for the visually impaired is a milestone worth celebrating.

The Executive Director, IFA and Coordinator, Access Nigeria: Disability Votes Matter campaign, Ms Grace Jerry, told newsmen in Abuja yesterday that history was made in last Saturday’s governorship election in Osun State as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) pilots a Braille ballot guide for voters with visual impairments.

“The population of PWDs in Nigeria is estimated to be 29.7 million or 15 percent of the country’s current population of 198 million. PWDs face a plethora of accessibility challenges in our quest to participate in Nigeria’s political and electoral processes. These challenges have included inaccessible polling units and the unavailability of election materials like Braille or Tactile ballots and written instructions.

“INEC explained that it was late to meet our request for assistive Braille or Tactile voting devices during the July 14, 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State but made history by introducing a PWD-specific Election Day written instruction for that election. The new Election Day written instruction or Form EC30PWD designed by INEC and the Access Nigeria campaign had information that assisted voters with hearing impairments and other PWDs to cast their ballots seamlessly during the Ekiti election.

“INEC at this time made a commitment to the Access Nigeria campaign to provide assistive Braille voting materials during the September 22, 2018 governorship election in Osun state. We are happy to report that this Braille Ballot Guide was approved, produced and successfully deployed by INEC for the September 22, 2018 governorship election in Osun state,” Jerry said.

According to her, this was the first time an election management body in Nigeria would be providing a Braille assistive material to assist voters with visual impairments to vote by themselves and commended INEC leadership under Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and others for the development.

She therefore urged INEC to institutionalize PWD friendly materials like the Form EC30PWD and Braille Ballot Guide to be part of their election polling unit materials checklist to facilitate seamless deployment and utilization of these materials at polling units during elections.

“INEC should begin early planning for the deployment of the Braille Ballot Guide for the 2019 general elections based on the successes and lessons learned from the Osun governorship election; INEC should mainstream disability rights into the training of INEC staff/adhoc officials to ensure optimum delivery and performances during elections,” she said.

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