Centre for Ability, Rehabilitation and Empowerment (CARE) has called on INEC to create more access for persons with disabilities in the next general election.
The Founder of CARE, Dr. Chike Okogwu made this appeal on Monday when the group paid an advocacy visit to the Hon. National Commissioner, INEC Outreach and Partnership Committee, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola.
Dr. Chike Okogwu in his speech via phone video call highlighted the importance of transportation logistics for persons with disabilities during voter registration exercise and voting.
He said that the group has identified that the challenges associated with transportation to complete the biometrics at INEC centres are responsible for the low registration of persons with disabilities in the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration(CVR) which has recorded only 15, 000 persons with disabilities.
He proposed to collaborate with INEC to put together an organized transportation logistics for PWDs during CVR and also on the election day to enable PWDs to participate in the electoral process.
Speaking further, the group called on INEC to strengthen security for PWDs, they identified that it is one of the major reasons there is voter apathy on the part of PWDs. The fear of violence has made a lot of PWDs to stay away from voting, so they suggested that INEC should introduce early voting for PWDs so that they may start voting a week before the election day.
The group also called for collaboration with INEC in the area of getting the political parties to open up more space for PWDs in the party politics because it will go a long way towards enhancing the participation of PWDs in politics. They said that their agenda generally is to increase the participation of PWDs in politics both in voting and standing to be voted for.
Dr, Adekunle Ogunmola in his response commended the group for taking steps to enhance the participation of PWDs but reminded that INEC has been very inclusive when it comes to mainstream PWDs in the elections. He informed that INEC has been in touch with Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) such as Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), The Albino Foundation, Centre for Citizens With Disabilities and JONAPWD.
He pointed out that INEC has with the help of these OPDs came up with several innovations and steps to include PWDs in elections. There has been introduction of Braille Ballot Guide to enable the blind to vote, Magnifying glasses for Persons with disabilities, Priority Voting for Persons with Disabilities or separate queue for PWDs because INEC don’t want to keep PWDs long at the polling units, the voting cubicle and ballot box are being placed in places they can be accessible by wheelchair and crutches users, inscriptions at the polling units to aid the communication and direction for Deaf Persons on election day.
He also informed that INEC have also included disability inclusion in the training manual of the Adhoc staff and the security agents are well informed on how PWDs should be treated during elections.
He admitted that there still some lapses but INEC is working tirelessly to address the issues.
On issues of early voting for PWDs, Dr. Ogunmola said that the gesture shouldn’t be for PWDs alone, he said that even all those involved in the conducting election across the country are all disenfranchise. He noted that it is a proposal that INEC is looking so that all those involved in election matters can vote before proceeding to organize elections for others.
He informed that INEC with the help on OPDs is collecting data of Voters with Disabilities across the country and data will help INEC to plan better for PWDs in the elections.
He urged PWDs to have faith in INEC because there are plans to enable electioneering would be more conducive for them and charged PWDs to involve themselves more in the party politics because there is little INEC can do in compiling political parties to include PWDs, any action INEC take towards that direction is only advisory, INEC can dictate for political parties.
Accompanied CARE team to the visit were Agbo Chris of The Qualitative Magazine(TQM), Obinna Ekujereonye of Disability Advancement Initiative (DAI) among others.