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FCT Polls: Disability groups release findings, lament inaccessible PUs and PU materials for PWDs

A consortium of OPDs and CSOs earlier today held a joint press conference in Abuja on the February 12 2022 FCT Area Council Elections. OPDs in the consortium comprised of Inclusive Friends Association IFA, The Albino Foundation TAF and Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities JONAPWD made this findings and they are stated below.

Grace Jerry, ED, Inclusive Friends Association and Jake Epelle, CEO, The Albino Foundation TAF

Findings

Access to polling Units

  • The routes (roads) leading to the areas where most of the polling units were located were inaccessible for PWDs.
  • There were neither ramps nor handrails for use by PWDs outside the most voting locations.
  • The internal layout of the Polling Unit was difficult to access as the setting has barriers such as corridors and steps which made it difficult for voters with disabilities to participate in accreditation and voting. In some instances, the Polling Officers claimed that all persons with physical disability that came to vote were “carried”/ “lifted” by the Assistant Presiding Officers before they could be accredited and allowed to vote.

Polling Unit Materials

  • The Braille ballot guide was designed in a way that was impossible for blind voters to use effectively.
  • While the ballot boxes was placed on flat surfaces for easy reach in most Pus, the height of the placement in other PUs was not suitable for voters with disabilities, particularly for those who use wheelchairs and roller blades.
  • The Form EC 40H was not available to collect data of voters with disabilities who voted on Election Day.
  • At most PUs the INEC Form EC 30E PWD was not pasted for use by voters with hearing impairments.
  • Magnifying Glasses was seen in very few PUs

Recommendations to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

  • INEC should categorize the Braille ballot guide as a sensitive material to ensure timely and effective deployment for all elections.
  • INEC should strengthen training of regular and ad hoc staff to effectively administer accessible Election Day materials and accommodations for voters with disabilities.
  • INEC should ensure that voting cubicles are designed to enable voters with disabilities to cast their ballots confidentially as well as ensure ballot boxes are placed in areas that allow voters with disabilities to vote independently.
  • INEC should continue to engage and consult with the Organization of Person with disabilities/disability community to identify areas to be improved for more inclusive electoral processes especially in the production of the Braille Ballot Guide.
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