The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide sign language interpreters at polling and registration centers for the Nov. 6 Anambra governorship election, in order to reduce voter apathy among people with disabilities (PWDs).
Ms. Grace Jerry, Executive Director of the IFA, made the announcement at a news conference in Abuja on Tuesday.
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The conference, titled “Access Nigeria Campaign Final Observation Statement on the Accessibility of the Anambra Continues Voter Registration Process for PWDs,” sought recommendations to improve accessibility for PWDs in the Anambra election.
According to Jerry, providing sign language interpreters and PWDs-specific instruction posters would make it easier for residents with hearing impairments and other forms of disabilities to register and vote during Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
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She stated that the CVR process in Anambra was observed by the IFA-led Access Nigeria Campaign.
According to her, the purpose of the observation was to determine the accessibility of the CVR process for PWDs and to make recommendations to help INEC make the process more accessible for PWDs in the future.
“During the four-week observation period, Access Nigeria observers reported that INEC did not provide sign language interpreters to assist citizens with hearing impairments in registering at all 20 registration centers.
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“The complete lack of sign language interpreters and PWD-specific instruction posters excluded and discouraged citizens with hearing impairments from registering to vote.
“During the observation period, there was a noticeable lack of security officials at 14 of the 20 registration centers visited.
“With the Anambra election approaching and a heightened fear of violence, the absence of security officials at these registration centers will discourage PWDs from participating in the registration process,” she said.
She stated that making the CVR and other electoral processes accessible to PWDs would increase the association’s participation in all phases of the electoral process.
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Mr Oluwaseyi Moses, Programme Manager, Access Nigeria, IFA, stated that the group commended INEC on its efforts to ensure that PWDs were not left behind in the CVR.
According to Moses, based on the CVR’s observations, the group made some recommendations aimed at removing barriers encountered by PWDs during the process.
“The police and other security agencies should work with INEC to ensure that all communities in Nigeria are peaceful enough for eligible citizens to register to vote.
“For example, in Ayamelum, the communal crisis prevented many residents and observers from participating in the voter registration process.
“INEC should provide mobile and/or permanent ramps and handrails at voter registration centers to help PWDs with mobility.
“Alternatively, registration points in the centers should be located in areas without staircases or other barriers, as this will immediately eliminate the difficulty faced by PWDs who use crutches or wheelchairs,” he said.
Moses also stated that the internal layout of all registration centers should be designed so that all categories of PWDs can move freely and without barriers during the CVR.
He stated that the association wanted INEC to tighten its oversight of registration officials across the country.
He stated that the IFA, Access Nigeria Campaign has called on INEC to immediately incorporate the data of PWDs collected during the Anambra CVR process, disaggregated by type of disability, into the planning.
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During the Anambra governorship election, he said, this was for the deployment of voting aids such as the Braille ballot guide, election day written instructions, and magnifying glasses
Moses stated that the group wanted INEC to work more closely with security agencies to ensure adequate deployment of their personnel to registration centers.
He stated that the presence of security agencies would increase PWDs’ confidence in their safety, thereby increasing their participation.
“As we approach the gubernatorial election, the campaign hopes the Commission will immediately seek to address the challenges identified in this statement,” he said.
Mr Bem Aga, Program Director at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), stated that the institute and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported IFA’s Access Nigeria Campaign in carrying out the project to make the electoral process more accessible to people with disabilities.
Aga stated that one of NDI’s goals was to ensure that all people were treated fairly and in accordance with their various circumstances, as well as to ensure that all people were included.
He praised Access Nigeria’s report on PWDs in the CVR process and urged INEC to take steps to address some of the observations and areas of concern raised.