The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) has urged Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide sign language interpreters at polling units (PUs) and registration centres (RCs) for the November 6 Anambra governorship election.
IFA Executive Director, Ms Grace Jerry, made the call on Tuesday in Abuja, at a news conference tagged: “Access Nigeria Campaign Final Observation Statement on the Accessibility of the Anambra Continues Voter Registration Process for PWDs”.
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She said that this is to prevent voter apathy from Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) and other recommendations to improve accessibility for PWDs in the Anambra election.
She said that providing sign language interpreters and PWDs specific instruction posters would assist residents with hearing impairments and other forms of disabilities to register during Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and actual voting.
She said that the IFA-led Access Nigeria Campaign observed the CVR process in Anambra and would also observe the election.
She said, “Access Nigeria observers reported that INEC did not provide sign language interpreters to assist citizens with hearing impairments to register in all 20 registration centres during the four-week observation period.
“The total absence of both sign language interpreters and PWD-specific instruction posters excluded and discouraged citizens with hearing impairments from registering as voters. During the period of observation, there was a clear absence of security officials at 14 out of the 20 registration centers visited.”
She said if the CVR and other electoral processes were accessible to PWDs, it would increase the participation of the association in all phases of the electoral process.
Also, Programme Manager, Access Nigeria, IFA, Mr Moses Oluwaseyi, said the group is commending INEC on efforts made so far to ensure PWDs were not left behind in the CVR.
“The police and other security agencies should support INEC by ensuring that all communities across Nigeria are peaceful enough for eligible citizens to register as voters.
“For example, the communal crisis in Ayamelum prevented many residents and observers from participating in the voter registration process there.
“INEC should provide mobile and/or permanent ramps and handrails at voter registration centres to aid the mobility of PWDs.
“Alternatively, the registration points in the centres should be located in areas that do not have staircases or other barriers as this will immediately eliminate the difficulty faced by PWDs who use crutches or wheelchairs,” Oluwaseyi said.
Moses added that the internal layout of all registration centres should be made spacious enough for all categories of PWDs to move freely without barriers during the CVR.
He also urged INEC to immediately incorporate the data of PWDs, disaggregated by types of disabilities, collected during the Anambra CVR process, into the planning.
Programme Director, National Democratic Institute (NDI), Mr Bem Aga, said the institute and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported IFA, Access Nigeria Campaign to carry out the project to open up the electoral process for PWDs.
Aga said one of NDI’s objectives was to ensure that all people were treated justly and in accordance with their diverse conditions as well as guarantee inclusion of all.