PLWDs lament lack of access to polling units
The Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of taking note of the difficulties its members face in accessing polling stations.
This, it claimed, was despite Section 54(1) of the Electoral Act of 2022, which stated that electoral barriers against people with disabilities and other vulnerable people should be addressed. It noted that its members faced a variety of challenges, some of which resulted in unintended disenfranchisement.
In an interview with our correspondent, the organization's national president, Abdullahi Usman, stated that other voters, security officials, and electoral officers had a limited understanding of the priority that should be given to people with disabilities.
"From JONAPWD's citizens' observers' deployed across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory during the February 25 election," he stated.
"It was discovered that the use of INEC form EC40H to capture data of persons with disabilities before accreditation commenced was not mentioned. Another example is the unmentioned and concealed release of the INEC EC.30E poster, which instructs voters with hearing impairments on how to vote at a polling unit.
"There was also limited understanding by voters, security officials and electoral officers over priority voting for persons with disabilities, the aged, visibly pregnant women, and nursing mothers to vote before others. The elongated period of polling officers caused mental health triggers, particularly at polling units where the voting process was elongated without sessional breaks."
He bemoaned the fact that many polling places were inaccessible to people with disabilities.
"Pockets of violence and other concerns that are potential triggers of psychosocial disability relapses, inaccessible pathways to the pasted register of registered voters at polling units, inaccessible voting areas due to elevated placement of voting cubicles, inconsistency in procedures, particularly in the positioning of some voting cubicles, which compromised the secrecy of the ballot, and misinformation surrounding polling unit re-distribution and locations," he noted.
He urged the commission to implement measures to alleviate the constraints that PwDs faced during the previous exercise ahead of the March 11 governorship and state assembly elections.
"We enjoin the INEC to keep its promises by ensuring that the voting process is completely accessible to all eligible persons with disabilities across the disability clusters," he said. We specifically urge the electoral umpire to be more deliberate in addressing the observed constraints, as well as other issues that have the strong potential to infringe on the voting rights of eligible persons with disabilities.
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