It’s a fact that the process of voting is a complex one that involves the deployment of logistics by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to various polling units. To reduce the agony and frustration of the visually impaired, a call for the introduction of the Braille ballot guide which is an envelope-like leaflet with tactile features that enable people with visual impairment to vote independently was made.
With this Braille ballot, which is interestingly of the same size as the ballot paper, the voter would be able to identify all the names of the political parties listed therein. They can then proceed to vote for the party of their choice using their thumbprint and the ink will automatically fall on their chosen party in the ballot paper.
To see to the manifestation of this goal, a non -governmental Organisation (NGO), Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) run by and for People With Disabilities (PWD) has over the last two years been in the forefront of bringing disability to the heart of teambuilding and development through advocacy.
Boosting this cause, IFA through its ” Action Nigeria Project” which seeks to ensure their participation (PWDs) in every election and other critical national exercises engaged various electoral stakeholders, especially INEC, to ensure that voting materials, procedures for elections, locations of polling units and administration of elections by poll workers are made more accessible and inclusive.
During the 2019 presidential elections, the Braille ballot guides were deployed to 46 percent of polling units nationwide as disclosed by YIAGA’s PVT, but sadly, blind voters were unable to access and use the Braille ballot guides in their polling units on election day.
However, poor training of the electoral body officials were pinpointed as a major challenge that frustrated the provision of PWD assistive voting materials and knowledge-gap on how to administer these materials. Touched by their plight, in May 2018, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, assured persons living with disabilities of equal access to voting process during elections.
Interestingly, INEC has scheduled October 28 and November 4, 2019, to conduct trainings for the identified blind voters on the use of the braille ballot guides for the Bayelsa and Kogi elections. This training will be conducted by INEC in partnership with the IFA. During the training, a mock election will be conducted for blind voters using the Braille ballot guides.
As concerned citizens, PWDs hereby appeal that as we count down to the training; the media should be deliberate about developing stories such as this and ensure that they support Voter Education initiatives by INEC as well as the Organiation of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) as this will create more awareness about this innovation and also improve the participation of PWDs.
On the side of the federal government, there is the urgent need for the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to begin early community awareness creation about the availability of the Braille ballot guides, Election Day Written Instructions (Form 30 D (PWD)), magnifying glasses, observance of Priority Voting, etc. ahead of the forthcoming elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
We appeal passionately that INEC should on their part, also ensure that the Braille ballot guides is procured early and in perfect dimension to ensure that the training and mock exercise go smoothly and achieve the objectives. Additionally, deployment of the Braille ballot guides to all polling units should be at 100 percent to ensure that blind voters use them at their polling units.
PWD voters, especially the blind must mobilise members to participate in the training and mock exercise. All PWDs must also prepare and troupe in their numbers to polling units to vote on Election Day.
All Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) should ensure that their voter education messages in the lead up to both state elections are inclusive; to accommodate deaf, blind and other categories of voters. Jesse John wrote from Abuja
Read more: https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/training-blind-voters-on-braille-ballot.html