Despite Challenges, Persons Living With Disabilities Commend Edo Election

Despite Challenges, Persons Living With Disabilities Commend Edo Election

Despite the Independent National Electoral Commission’s improvement in its preparations for persons living with disabilities in the last governorship election in Edo state, some still had challenges in being able to exercise their franchise while several of them were full of commendations. Yiaga Africa had reported that 38% of the polling units (245 of 250

Despite the Independent National Electoral Commission’s improvement in its preparations for persons living with disabilities in the last governorship election in Edo state, some still had challenges in being able to exercise their franchise while several of them were full of commendations.

Yiaga Africa had reported that 38% of the polling units (245 of 250 PUs monitored) had Braille ballot guide for visually impaired voters.

There was a large turnout of Persons with Disabilities, (PWDs) across the state participating in the governorship election. Prior to the election, the Independent National Electoral Commission had promised that PWDs would be able to exercise their franchise as the commission will provide assistive materials such as Braille Ballot Guide (BBG), magnifying glasses and posters at PUs in enough quantities.

It was with a high hope and expectation to have a say in the electoral process that saw several PWDs trooping out and enduring all odds at their respective polling units in order to vote for the candidate they preferred to pilot the affairs of Edo State for the next four years.

As earlier promised, INEC, gave PWDs a priority to vote ahead of other voters in the places observed in this report. But, this good gesture was nearly marred by faulty smart card readers in some of the polling units which unfortunately dampened the enthusiasm of persons with disabilities.

At Ibiwe, Oba Market Premises 2, Oredo LGA, a PWD who doubled as a party agent, voted first and also stood by to ensure his party wasn’t fairly treated in the whole process. But another man with mobility challenge was not so lucky as he unable to cast his vote when he arrived at his polling unit at Emokpea Primary School. The presiding officer informed him that the card reader could not read his PVC after several trials.

Frustrated by the inability to vote, he blamed the electoral commission saying “this is my polling unit and this is where I usually vote. I don’t know why the card reader is not reading my card.” After waiting in the scorching sun with the hope of a solution, Chike left the polling unit.

At the same PU, two blind men were able to cast their votes after being presented with braille ballot guide, which enabled them to vote without assistance from an external party.

At Amegor Primary School, Uwelu community, Egor LGA, a man with physical disability who uses crutches explained how he trekked a long distance to get to the polling unit for him to exercise his franchise. He expressed his happiness for being able to partake in the electoral process saying being disabled should not disenfranchise anyone.

“I believe that with or without my disability, I should be able to make my voice heard by participating in the elections. I won’t say because I have a disability, then I will fold my hands and sit at home when others are voting. If I don’t take any step to elect the person I want in position, I won’t be able to demand for my rights,” he said.

He was full of commendation for INEC officials at his polling unit for giving him priority, which made it easy for him to vote as soon as he got to the polling unit. “The INEC officials didn’t allow me to stay on the queue for long, I was able to cast my vote as soon as I got to the polling unit and it was quite encouraging,” he added.

In an assessment conducted by Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), a Disabled Peoples Organization, the group commended the high turnout of PWDs at the election.

The group said PWDs could be seen to have participated and given priority at most polling units monitored.

IFA, however, said that the commission did not provide well enough for PWDs when planning the election because “Braille Ballot Guide was deployed to very few polling units thereby not showing a good representation of inclusiveness for the PWD clusters that are visually impaired.”

The group raised concerns that the deployment of the materials across the state could have been delayed and consequently affected the participation of PWDs at the polls.

In an interview, Grace Jerry, Executive Director, IFA, however, opined that the Independent National Electoral Commission had made adequate provision to enable participation of PWDs during the elections.

After the declaration of results several persons including PWDs gathered at major roundabouts jubilating on the outcome of the largely peaceful and successful election. Communicating in sign language, one of the Deaf persons, Egbon Sunday noted that he is excited that his vote had counted. Also, at Ramat Roundabout, a man on wheelchair was seen among the crowd expressing his excitement.

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