The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has failed to collate the data of all persons with disability that are eligible to vote in the upcoming governorship poll in Edo State.
Chairman of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disability (JONAPWD), Henry Ebose, said in an interview with SaharaReporters that this would hamper the ability of the commission to provide sign interpreters at booths where deaf persons would be expected to vote, for example.
He said the commission decided to use pictorial representations and visible signs instead.
Ebose, however, noted that the electoral body deepened their effort at interacting with PWD’s and making the election more inclusive.
“INEC said during our voter education engagements that it would not be able to provide sign interpreters for deaf persons,” he said. “There are many wards in the state, and they do not know how many of these wards deaf persons will come to vote in. Sign language interpreters, in any case, are not even enough and it may be expensive to have them available at all wards.”
Nonetheless, Ebose said persons with auditory impairment were okay with the provisions made available, hoping it would improve in subsequent elections.
He, however, wondered why the commission does not have disaggregated data of PWD’s in the state, noting that a form is given to such a class of persons to fill.
“I understand it is INEC’s fault that they don’t have our data. There is a form called 40H that we are given to fill. You know INEC uses ad-hoc staff, maybe they get so overwhelmed that they forgot to collate the information filled in the forms.”
The PWD head noted that the commission had made provision for the use of braille ballot guides for blind voters.
He said the commission had decided that all ballot boxes would be placed on low platforms to enable those on wheelchairs to cast their votes without much hassle.
A spokesperson for the commission, Rotimi Oyekanmi, was unable to confirm how many of the 1.5m persons who had collected their permanent voter cards in the state are disabled when SaharaReporters reached out to him.
Oyekanmi said Form EC40H only captured PWD’s who had voted and not those that were eligible to vote.
“The data gathering in Edo, Ondo and ten other states is ongoing, through a collaboration of the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) and the Commission,” Oyekanmi said.
“However, assistive materials for Persons Living with Disabilities (PWDs) such as Braille Ballot Guide (BBG), magnifying glasses, posters at PUs would be provided in enough quantities.
“The form EC40H captured only PWDs that voted and not the total number eligible to vote. The data being collected will be available for use when completed,” he added.
Oyekanmi said PWD-specific voter education and enlightenment were ongoing at the grassroots level, in collaboration with various PWD organisations.
Ebose confirmed that there were voter education campaigns across all local governments of the state but expressed doubt about whether the enlightenment campaign reached the grassroots.