In the past elections, people with disabilities had difficulty accessing polling stations, voting for the candidates of their choice, among other challenges.
During this year’s presidential election, disabled people have been promised facilitation during the campaign as well as on election day.
According to Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the Executive Secretary of the National Council of Persons with Disabilities, the council is advocating for the disabled so that they can participate in elections easily.
“Political parties and independent candidates are facilitating disabled people to attend rallies. We have reminded them that the disabled are citizens like others and their votes count,” he told The New Times last week.
He explained that at campaign sites, there are places reserved for disabled people.
“We agreed with political parties and independents that they have to include places for the disabled in their sites design. They also give them interpreters that help them to get candidates’ messages. We are making sure the disabled get facilitated and it is so far going well,” he said.
“We have asked the National Electoral Commission to make polling stations easily accessible to the disabled such as those using wheel chairs. Representatives of our council will be collaborating with those of NEC to identify sites that may not be accessible for the disabled so that they can be changed”.
He revealed that the blind will be using Braille, a system used by visually impaired people to know what candidates they are voting for.
“We have designed a format that will be helping them to vote. This was tested during the election of representatives of the disabled in EALA and it was successful. The names of the presidential candidates have been put on the Braille so blind voters will easily know candidates,” he said.
Ndayisaba noted that there is an ongoing campaign calling for the disabled to participate in elections like other citizens through messages delivered on televisions using sign language.
Prof. Kalisa Mbanda, the chairperson of the National Electoral Commission reiterated that the commission in collaboration with the National Council of Persons with Disabilities will ensure the disabled get facilitated.
“On our voting list, we already know where the disabled especially the blind are and the sites they will use. It will be easy to facilitate them.
“Normally, disabled people used to go in a voting booth with someone aged between 14 and 18 years old to help them vote. The new thing is that they will be using a Braille that will help them to know the name of the candidate by touching.
Those who can’t use the Braille, there will be a box that has holes. The hole for each candidate will help them to know who to vote and how,” he said.
The presidential election is scheduled to take place on August 3 and 4 for the diaspora and locals respectively.