The Inclusive Friends Association has disclosed that braille ballot guide for the Blind and written guide for the Deaf were missing at most polling units at the recently concluded gubernatorial election in Edo State.
IFA, a disabled people organization disclosed this in an assessment report about the election.
The report read in part that, “IFA observed that the BBG was deployed to very few polling units (PU). Also, according to the Yiaga Africa PVT report, the BBG was deployed to 38% of the sampled PU.
“This does not show a good representation of inclusiveness for the PWD clusters that are visually impaired.
“The Election day written instruction was practically missing in all PU visited by IFA. This form is required to assist deaf voters understand the voting process due to the inability of having sign language interpreters at all PUs.
“This therefore excluded most deaf voters the ability to vote.”
The group also noted that, “in most PU visited, only a few had the magnifying glasses which is required to assist voters who have albinism or are visually impaired to vote without assistance.”
Regarding the accessibility of polling units to PWDs, IFA reported that most of the PU were still not accessible for PWDs as polling officials still had their set up on the verandas even at locations where they had an opportunity to set up on the flat ground.”
Despite all the shortcomings, IFA commended INEC for the level of co-ordination and deployment of materials across all the various polling units.
“IFA observed that INEC logistics arrangement was quite adequate and commendable. As a considerable number of INEC officials and voting materials got to most polling units at about 8:30am.
“IFA observed that there was a high level of priority voting for PWDs during the election and this is highly commendable for INEC.
“IFA observed that form EC40H was available at all PUs visited by our observers. The form is used to capture data of PWDs to assist INEC’s deployment for PWDs in future elections and enhance its database.”
Regarding the turnout of PWDs at the polls, IFA noted that there was high presence of PWDs who were present to cast their votes.
In most of the polling units visited by IFA, there was considerably good participation of PWD who came out in their numbers male and female to cast their votes for the candidate of their choice.
The group recommended that INEC needs to improve on its shortcomings with the aim of ensuring access to PWDs during elections.
“While we commend INEC for the successful conduct of the Edo governorship election and ensuring inclusivity, we call on INEC to improve some grey areas such as adequate deployment and effective utilization of assistive materials for PWDs, training of polling officials while the commission makes efforts to address the challenges identified.”