As part of measures to ensure inclusion of persons with disabilities in electoral process, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) put together a press conference in Abuja to call to action INEC and other stakeholders like the Media to enhance inclusion of PWDs in tomorrow’s governorship and house of assembly elections.
Grace Jerry, the Executive Director, of the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), and Convener of the Access Nigeria Campaign, has decried the lack of assistive materials that enable easy voting for People with Disabilities PWDs in the last election.
Jerry lamented that 60% of Polling Units (PUs) reportedly had no braille ballot guide for blind voters who could read and understand braille to cast their vote.
Speaking at a Pre-Election Press briefing, the IFA boss, even though the PWD community trooped out en mass to perform their civic responsibilities, they were roundly disappointed, adding that in 76% of PUs observed, IFA observers reported the non-deployment of magnifying glasses for voters with albinism and low vision.
Jerry said IFA deployed 250 observers in the last election who went around to get a first-hand report of the exercise but regrettably, the feedback was not satisfactory.
“We deployed 250 observers in the last election and the report was not satisfactory,” Grace said adding that a lot of people with disabilities did not see their ballot to use.
“The election day poster was deployed reasonably but it did not go round. The general feedback didn’t show that the preparations and plans by the INEC chairman for the people living with disability to vote was not satisfactory. The people living with disabilities came out en masse to vote but they did not see their materials to use, ” Grace said.
According to her, despite making up 15% of Nigeria’s population, and the provision of the Electoral Act mandating INEC to provide PWD election assistive materials, Nigerians with disabilities in previous elections including the just concluded February 25, 2023 general elections have documented barriers at various stages such as Polling units not always accessible to voters with physical impairments, absence of ramps and handrails for use by PWDs, inadequate deployment of Form EC30E PWDs for deaf voters, Braille Ballot Guide for Blind Voters and magnifying glasses for persons with albinism and low vision, and general polling unit layout which makes it difficult for PWDs with physical impairment.
Molly Joshua, the program officer, Access Nigeria Campaign in his speech, Called Stakeholders to Action for the March 18th, 2023, Governorship, and state House of Assembly Elections
The IFAs Access Nigeria Campaign made the following call to action for stakeholders across Nigeria for peaceful, accessible, and credible elections.
Persons with Disabilities
- The Campaign called on all PWDs that are registered to vote and have their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to go out in mass and vote for the candidates of their choice. Voting remains one of the major ways to influence policies that would shape their lives.
- PWDs should take safety precautions by leaving voting places when they begin to sense any danger to their lives. They should call designated security numbers when safely out of danger. Our message to the PWD community is to encourage you to vote, but in doing prioritize your safety.
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
- IFA’s Access Nigeria Campaign called on INEC to stand by its commitment to providing the Braille ballot guide during the march 18th 2023 governorship and state house of Assembly election.
- INEC should also guarantee the provision of other PWD-friendly election materials including the Election Day written instructions (EC 30 E PWD), magnifying glasses, and Braille Ballot Guide.
- INEC should ensure effective and consistent use of Form EC40H to capture disaggregated data of PWDs voting on Election Day in line with their type of disabilities.
- INEC should ensure that they harvest the data of persons with disabilities recorded in form EC40H to further guide the deployment of assistive materials.
- INEC should fully enforce its policy of priority voting for PWDs so that PWDs are not required to stand in line for long hours as witnessed in previous elections.
- All Resident Electoral Commissioners should ensure the effective deployment of the assistive materials to the designated polling units in their various states.
- The IFA Campaign calls on the Police and other security agencies to protect all voters and election observers, especially those with disabilities. Voters and election observers with disabilities face peculiar mobility and other challenges that make it difficult or impossible for them to run to safety during election-related violence and chaos. We rely on the assurances from the Inspector General of Police but wish to reiterate this call-in view of the security challenges the nation faces.
- They called on the media to focus on how PWDs are faring as they report on the nation’s election. We understand that the media is often more fixated on election outcomes or results but wish to note that their reports will be incomplete if they fail to pay due attention to a huge constituency like PWDs. Nigerians need to know what was done to accommodate PWDs, and the media is the gateway to achieving that.
- The media should make deliberate efforts to intensify voter education in this final hour, to compliments the efforts of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in promoting the participation of PWDs.
- Media executives should consider disability inclusion in their broadcast and news production to promote inclusive practices in Nigeria including the consistent utilization of sign language interpretation.
In conclusion, Grace Jerry, commended INEC for taking steps to make elections in Nigeria more inclusive especially in the recruitment of PWDs to serve as ad hoc staff as observed and reported by our observers in the just concluded February 25th, 2023, general elections. This satisfies the IFA’s demand and meets the requirements of Section 29 of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities Act 2018.
We call on INEC especially the RECs to take deliberate steps in the forthcoming governorship and state assembly elections to ensure the effective deployment and usage of assistive materials as mandated by the electoral Act 2022.
She urged PWDs who have PVCs to come out enmasse to exercise their right of voting.