AHEAD of Saturday election in Ondo State, People With Disabilities, (PWD) have been urged to go out to participate in the election in order to exercise their voting rights.
The Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), David Anyaele, who made this call in Akure, Ondo State capital, during a press conference, tagged: ‘Leave No One Behind: Disability Votes Count’, said the barriers that made it difficult for People With Disabilities to participate in electoral processes must be removed.
According to him, PWD had been marginalised from participating in electoral processes in the past saying “polling units are not always physically accessible to those that are unable to walk or have impaired walking.
“The placement of ballot boxes on high tables or other inaccessible location also made it difficult for PWD voters, especially those on wheel chairs to cast their ballot on election day.”
Anyaele however said the Ondo State election would be the first election where PWD will participate actively, not just as voters but as election observers
Speaking during the press conference, Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association, (IPA) Grace Jerry, said the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), IFA and Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) have deployed a sample based election methodology observation to be used during the election
Jerry explained that accredited PWD observers will observe physical accessibility of polling units for PWD voters, access to electoral day information and the participation of PWD in election process.
She said “About 27 teams of PWD observers will be deployed to 200 polling units, a representative random sample of the 3009 polling units in Ondo State. Observers will 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 bus coded text messages.”
The PWD however commended the Ondo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Segun Agbaje, approving and allowing member of the PWD as election observers
The NDI Country Director, Mr Jasper Veen, confirmed that the accessibility audit was the first of its kind in the whole world, pointing out that the one conducted in Morocco was supervised by people without disabilities.
Veen, who appreciated the PWDs for their commitment, said the trend would tremendously increase their participation as voters, observers and political candidates on the long run.
While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Commissioner, Prof Anthonia Simbine, who led other two national commissioners to the event, noted that the PWDs was first raised during the Edo State election.
Simbine stated that the commission was looking forward to receiving assessment reports from the Edo and Ondo states elections, declaring that there were some constitutional constraints to whatever INEC could do to improve on their inclusiveness as voters.
She, however, affirmed that the commission has provided provisions for their participation. “Our commission has been making efforts to improve on itself especially on matters that affect our various stakeholders, especially the PWDs.”
The INEC National Commissioner hinged the improvements and successes accorded so far on the synergies with IFA, CCD, NDI and JONAPWD to finding lasting solutions through the desk units created by the commission.