Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) has called for removal of barriers against Persons With Disabilities (PWD), to give them access to voting in the forthcoming local councils election in Abia.
Mr David Anyaele,CCD Executive Director, made the call during a sensitisation programme for media practitioners on Equal Voting Access in Umuahia, on Friday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Abia Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC) has slated Dec. 18, for election into the 17 local government areas of the state.
Anyaele, who is the convener of the event, expressed fear that the PWDs will be excluded from the the poll, threatening that the group would not hestiate to sue the commission if that happened.
He said that PWDs consituted about 15 per cent of the population in the state and should not be denied the opportunity to exercise their voting franchise.
He charged the election body to provide disability sensitive ballot materials to enable the blind participate in the poll.
“We are asking that the polling units should be positioned in accessible places.
“Putting polling units across gutters, staircases, upstairs is a barrier to physically challenged individuals.
“They should be accorded with priority voting at the polls.
“This is in line with the provisions in the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Act, 2018, which provides that where there are queues, PWDs should be given priority,” he said.
Anyaele insisted that the votes in the councils elections must be inclusive and accessible to all irrespective of disability or not because “the votes of PWDs matter.”
He said that the essence of the programme was to sensitise the media to put issues affecting PWDs on the front burner, especially during elections.
Anyaele said that PWDs were the least understood group socially and politically in the country, adding that the media’s understanding of their issues would go a long way to address the challenge.
According to him, the society uses different disability models such as : charity, medical, rights-based and social, as barriers against PWDs.
Anyaele, who during the very interactive programme, educated the participants on the correct terminologies for reporting PWDs, said that the media often used wrong words in reporting.
Mr Sam Ekeoma, the Special Assistance to Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu on Disabilities, urged the media to give more attention to disability issues, saying that its inability do so was frustrating the efforts of PWDs.
He called on the State House of Assembly to pass the disabililty bill in order to address the challenges of stigmatisation and discrimination against PWDs.
NAN reports that Abia was yet to pass the disabililty law, while 10 states including Anambra, Rivers,Ekiti, Ondo, Lagos, Kogi, Niger, Bauchi, Kano and Jigawa have done do.(NAN)