By Angela Atabo
Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) has commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)for capturing the concerns of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration (CVR).
The Executive Director, of the association, Ms Grace Jerry in a statement in Abuja said that IFA led by Access Nigeria Campaign was observing the CVR process to document the experience of PWDs and make recommendations.
Jerry said that Access Nigeria Campaign deployed 21 trained PWD observers to 21 local government areas to observe the Anambra CVR process and determine the accessibility of the process for PWDs.
She said that the group deployed the observers with disabilities because of the determination to observe the process through the lenses of PWDs.
Jerry said that the methodology for the observation exercise was stationary observation with one observer deployed to each of the 21 LGA INEC offices.
She said that over the course of four weeks, each observer would observe once week at their pre-assigned INEC registration centre using a specialised checklist,’’ she said.
Jerry said that on the guidance of their checklist questions, each observer would respond to questions on arrival of registration officials, opening and setup of the registration centres.
She said the observers would also check physical accessibility of registration centres and registration materials, the conduct of INEC officials and closing of the process.
She said that it was observed that in 19 out of the 20 registration centres, PWDs were treated with priority.
“ The Access Nigeria Campaign commends INEC for the efforts it has made to include PWDs in the ongoing CVR process.
“Noteworthy is PWD priority registration and the new data collection form which will collect data disaggregated by disabilities, there are however still areas for improvement on accessibility, especially as it concerns where registration points are situated at INEC offices.
“The campaign hopes that the commission will immediately seek to address the challenges identified in this statement,’’ she said.
Jerry said that in all of the centres, Access Nigeria observed that the CVR application form had spaces to capture the disability status and type of disability of registrants.
“This is a most welcome development as it will enhance the ability of INEC to deploy assistive materials to these new registrants with precision during the Nov. 6, governorship election and subsequent elections.
“The Access Nigeria Campaign has been advocating for this since 2016,’’she said.
Jerry however said that the group called on INEC to provide mobile ramps at the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) centres to aid mobility of PWDs.
Jerry said that alternatively, the registration points in the centres should be located at areas without staircases to eliminate the difficulty faced by PWDs who use crutches or wheel chairs.
She said that additionally, the internal layout of all registration centres should be made spacious enough for all categories of PWDs to move freely without barriers during the CVR.
She said this was because most of the centres had staircases making it difficult for PWDs to access.
“IFA believes that if CVR processes are accessible to PWDs, it will increase our participation in all phases of the electoral process including voter registration and voting on Election Day.
“While the Access Nigeria Campaign commends INEC on the efforts made so far to ensure that PWDs can engage in the CVR exercise, these recommendations will help remove barriers faced by PWDs.’’
Jerry said that the provision of PWD specific instruction posters was recommended as this would assist hearing impaired registrants and other PWDs who visit the registration centres.
She added that Access Nigeria Campaign recommended that INEC should collaborate with the Deaf Association of Nigeria, Anambra chapter in ensuring that sign language interpreters were stationed across the 21 LGAs of the state,’’ she said.
Jerry said that this would ease the participation of PWDs who had hearing impairment.