The inclusive Friends Association, a disabled peoples organisation has commended the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC for the improvements recorded with the availability of assistive devices to enable persons with disabilities cast their votes during the gubernatorial elections in Ondo state.
Inclusive Friends in a press statement signed by the Executive Director, Grace Jerry, noted that INEC should be commended for the provision of braille for voters with visual impairment and training of polling officials in managing the electoral process especially engaging PWDs as part of the ad-hoc staff.
She noted that in, “PU28/06/04/011 Oke-Ijebo had PWDs as part of their ad-hoc staff, this is a good initiative of inclusion in the area of employment.”
Despite the commendation, the organisation noted that there are Insufficient magnifying glasses at most Polling Units adding that voting centers were inaccessible for persons with physical disability.
“IFA observed that, most of the PU were still not accessible for PWDs as polling officials still had their set up on the pavement at most locations in Akure South but few PUs were set up on a flat ground.
“IFA observed that most PUs located in front of a residential building had issues of accessibility.
“Most PUs in Akure South and across the State still have gutters and high corridors which made it very difficult for PWDs to access the PUs.”
IFA confirmed that Form EC 30E, the instruction day poster which would enable Deaf voters understand the voting instructions where there are no sign Language interpreters, were missing in most polling units.
“The instruction day poster was practically missing in most PUs visited by IFA in Akure South but present at Akoko North East, PU 007.
“However, PU 28/06/04/014 Oke-Ijebo Osikot Akinjos and 28/06/04/011 were highly populated with deaf voters who eventually were able to cast their votes upon arranging their own sign language interpreter.
“As the form required to assist deaf voters understand voting process in the absence of a sign language interpreters was not available.
“However, PWD posters Form EC 30E were present in 90% of polling units according to the Yiaga Africa’s report. This report depicts the usability of PWDs data submitted to INEC by Inclusive Friends Association which made deployment of assistive materials apt.”
IFA thereafter urged INEC to “make efforts to address the challenges identified above and especially, make efforts to engage relevant government agencies in providing concrete slabs to ensure accessibility for PUs located in front of residential buildings due to the existing gutter challenges or better still change PUs to more accessible ones.