People with disabilities deploy observers, seek inclusiveness
People With Disabilities (PWDs) in the state have appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to include them in the electoral process.
The Executive Director of Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), Mr. David Anayele and the Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), Mrs Grace Jerry, made the demand yesterday in Akure.
The PWD also announced that they haD deployed electoral observers in the field to ensure that the election is free and fair.
Speaking on the theme “Leave no one behind, disabilities’ votes count,” they noted that the PWD would adopt the polling unit accessibility audit methodology to achieve their purpose.
The group’s campaign was sponsored by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), in partnership with the state chapter of the Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD).
According to them, 27 teams of PWDs have been trained to monitor the polls.
They explained that each team would include a driver, an observer and a personal assistant, who would be deployed in 200 polling units that form a representative random sample of the 3009 polling units.
“The observers would rove on election day and answer questions at each of their assigned polling units, using a comprehensive checklist before sending their reports to a central database system through coded text messages,” they said.
Anayele said: “The PWDs are greatly marginalised from participating in Nigeria’s electoral processes because polling units are not always physically accessible to those that are unable to walk or have impaired walking.”
He listed other barriers as inaccessible locations to polling booths, high placement of ballot boxes, hearing and visual impairments.
The groups added that these challenges had often disturbed their participation in elections.
The IFA director demanded the use of sign language interpreters, braille IECs and other facilities that would enhance their active participation in governance and electoral processes.
She also asked for more incentives, ballot box accessibility, a change in narratives and stereotypes about persons with disabilities.
Jerry urged government to enact meaningful national disability rights legislation.
The PWDs urged more collaboration with the civil society organisations to help in actualising their long-term objective before the general elections in 2019.
They, however, lauded the Federal Government for removing some of the barriers confronting the over 25 million PWDs in the country in the last election held in Edo State.
The state Chairman and Secretary of the JONAPWD, Mr. Abiola Abiodun and Lawrence Akindele, said it was the first time that the PWDs were considered in elections.
The INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Anthonia Simbine, said the improvement recorded so far, was due to the synergies with IFA, CCD, NDI and JONAPWD.