Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting disability rights in a, recent research reported that in 58% of PUs observed, blind voters did not use the braille ballot guide (BG) for voting because there was no deployment of the BG in most PUs.
IFA deployed 250 people with disabilities (PWDs) as election observers across 21 states in Nigeria in the lead-up to the 2023 General Elections through its Vote-Ability Campaign to assess the accessibility of polling units to PWDs, the deployment and usage of PWD assistive materials and the internal layout of polling units, among other things.
IFA’s findings show that the late arrival of polling officials hindered the opportunity for an early opening of polls and delayed the commencement of accreditation and voting.
According to the research, Only 46.8% arrived at their polling units at about 7:30 a.m., while 55.2% arrived later than 8:30 a.m.
In addition, IFA observed that 65% of polling units had no suitable voting cubicles for PWDs on wheelchairs, persons of short stature, and persons on roller skates, and 60% of polling units had no braille ballot guide for blind voters who could read and understand braille to cast their vote.
Furthermore, IFA’s report indicates that 71% of polling units had no ramp or handrails for use by PWDs, 76% had no magnifying glasses for voters with albinism and low vision, and 22% were stationed around corridors and steps.
However, 74% of polling units had an accessible positioning and situating of the ballot box for PWDs on wheelchairs, and 61% of polling units had the INEC form EC30E election guide posters for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
The Vote-Ability Election Observation is undertaken to increase access, inclusion, deployment, and use of assistive materials for PWDs’ effective participation in the political and electoral processes.
The data collected from the observers is shared in real-time, and IFA hopes to bring awareness to the lack of accessibility for PWDs in polling units and push for the implementation of policies and practices that promote inclusivity.
The Vote-Ability Campaign commends all organizations working toward safer, more inclusive free, and fair elections in Nigeria and calls on these organizations to continue to engage with the disability community to ensure their efforts are inclusive.
“Persons with disabilities want to be fully involved in Nigeria’s electoral and political processes.
While INEC has taken great strides to improve its priority voting policy and implement voting accommodations, poll officials consistently fail to understand the significance of inclusion or take actions that promote the participation of all groups.” the Group said