The National Electoral Commission has announced that visually impaired Rwandans will be able to vote for the first time in this year’s presidential elections which will take place on August 4.
Previously, visually impaired people have delegated people to vote for them by revealing their preferred candidate but that will change because the National Electoral Commission agreed to start using braille voting papers.
Braille is a form of written language for blind people, in which characters are represented by patterns of raised dots that are felt with fingertips.
Charles Munyaneza, the Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Commission told Sunday Times that by July, voters’ register including visually impaired persons will also be available showing who can vote using braille.
“As we update the voters’ register, we are also trying to add the list of visually impaired persons who can read and use braille in voting. By July the list will be available together with printed braille polls sheets to be used,” he said.
Over 6.6 million Rwandans are expected to vote in the forthcoming presidential election but the process to update the voters’ register is ongoing under the commission’s supervision until May 2017.
Rwandans will go to polls on Friday August 4, 2017 and those who live abroad will vote the day before (August 3).
The commission indicates that from June 5 to 14, 2017, the electoral commission will be receiving applications for presidential candidates and the final list of candidates will be announced on June 27 as the campaigns for the qualified candidates will officially begin on July 14 and end on August 3, just a day before the elections.
Munyaneza told the Sunday Times that there are about 177,000 visually impaired people in the country but said the ongoing update of voters’ register will discern those who can use braille and are of age and are eligible to vote.
“We expect that between 50,000 and 100,000 could vote. This additional component of those to use braille will not affect the existing budget set aside for polls activities”, he said.
NCPD welcomes the step
Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities welcomed the initiative.
“We have been discussing with the electoral commission about using braille in polls. We have put the disabled people into categories and those who can read and use braille can vote by using the technology,” he said.
He added that they had tested the system this year while voting members of NCPD council and was successful.