What issue are you trying to solve?
The right to vote provides a unique opportunity for citizens to influence the policies that affect their lives. Sadly, this right continues to elude many Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) voters in Nigeria because of the accessibility barriers that they face in the electoral process. Voting polling units are not always physically accessible to those that are unable to walk or have impaired walking. Additionally, election materials such as ballots are not produced in Tactile or Braille. Polling units do not have written instructions that will enable them understand Election Day procedures. IFA is advocating to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for more accessible elections and will be conducting a Get out the Vote (GOTV) Round table and media campaign to mobilize PWD participation and use the media to sensitize voters against vote buying and selling which undermines any democracy. INEC have also introduced Written Instructions for PWDs.
What approach do you take to solve this issue?
The campaign is driven by data gathering through our accessibility audit of polling units which is Africa’s fist and second to be conducted by PWDs themselves. We also carry out evidence based advocacy to INEC, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the National Assembly for actionable steps on recommendations. We also hold quarterly round tables with stakeholders and PWD leaders to draw implementation plan and monitor the implementation of our recommendations. While INEC and other stakeholders work to remove the barriers in polling units, we also conduct Get out the Vote initiatives through forums, media and community outreaches to sensitize and mobilize PWDs to vote during elections. This has yielded alot of result for us during the Anmbra elections in 2017, Ekiti in July 2018, and Osun to come in September and the 2019 general elections which will be massive. This award will assist us deploy more strategies to ensure more participation in the 2019 elections.
What is the potential impact of your initiative?
PWDs now experience priority voting during elections beginning from the Ekiti state July election. Election Day written Instructions are now provided for voters with hearing impairment. Sign language interpreters are deployed to stakeholder’s engagement for PWDs and during Election Result collation and announcement. More women with disabilities now vote during elections. At least 5 PWDs now vote during elections. Magnifying glasses are now provided for voters with albinism in Nigeria’s elections. IFA has also trained 69 Election observers from 2016 till date. Two independent radio programs are conducted by our Election Observers who were inspired by the campaign (Hitches and Voices and Special People). One of our observers was appointed in 2017 as the Special Assistant to the Ondo state governor on disability matters. All these are improving the participation of PWDs in Nigeria‘s electoral process, and the political space is opening up for PWDs in Nigeria more and more.