The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) in collaboration with Joint National Associations of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Ekiti State Chapter, trained forty five female and male with disabilities from the 16 Local Government Areas of Ekiti State as election observers for the just concluded July 14, 2018 Ekiti State Gubernatorial Election. JOHN SILAS writes.
The training was part of the activities for the implementation of CCD Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria. The eventual long term goal of this intervention, the organization said, is to ensure that eligible citizens with disabilities are able to participate in the electoral process on equal bases with other citizens.
David O. Anyaele, Executive Director, CCD, said “Our objectives include to: mobilize citizens with disabilities’ participation in the gubernatorial election, observe and analyse compliance and produce evidence-based report on citizens with disabilities participation in the election, and raise awareness on equal voting rights for citizens with disabilities.
“Recognizing that CCD was accredited as an election observer by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the July 14, 2018 Ekiti Governorship Election, CCD and JONAPWD Ekiti State Chapter last month, launched the Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities in Ekiti State,” Anyaele stated.
He further stated that CCD and JONAPWD Ekiti State Chapter worked tirelessly to advocate for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make polling units and ballot boxes more accessible for PWDs; the use of sign language interpreters during all civic and voter education messaging on television; advocating for improvements in the distribution and reach of civic and voter education messages to citizens with different forms of disabilities; advocating for the use of braille IECs for civic and voter education at all levels and; advocating for an improvements in the capacity of election officials to assist PWDs vote on Election Day.
CCD & JONAPWD are also working with other relevant stakeholders to change narratives and stereotypes about PWDs; contributing to the passage of National Disability Bill; amendment of section 56 of the Electoral Act 2015 as amended to hold INEC responsible for citizens with disabilities participation in the electoral process.
The organisation also said it is greatly concerned at the level of marginalization of PWDs in the electoral process. This is because polling units are not always physically accessible to those with physical disabilities. The placement of ballot boxes on high tables or other inaccessible locations also make it difficult for PWD voters, especially those on wheel chairs to cast their ballots on Election Day.
The absence of sign language interpreters during some civic and voter education and political campaign messages makes it impossible for voters who have hearing impairments (deaf voters) to benefit from the information being shared in these messages.
Already CCD and JONAPWD Ekiti State Chapter paid an advocacy visits to INEC Resident Commissioner for Ekiti State, Prof. Abduganiy Raji and media Houses in Ado Ekiti. The purpose of the visit was to sensitize the stakeholders and bring to their awareness on the “Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities. We called for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the electoral processes, deployment of electoral observers, training and reporting of outcomes in the July 14, 2018 Ekiti State Governorship Election.