The Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), has said it will introduce sign languages and communication techniques to aid the full participation of People-Living-with-Disabilities (PLWDs) in the 2019 general elections.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Partnership and Outreach Committee of the commission, Dr Adekunle Ogunmola, stated this in Lokoja, Kogi State capital at a workshop on capacity-building.
The workshop is on “Communication Skills for Desk Officers in Charge of People Living with Disabilities.’’
Ogunmola said that introduction of sign language was part of moves to ensure inclusiveness in electoral processes.
He identified lack of detailed and comprehensive data of PLWDs based on the disabilities and inaccessibility of some public places designated as polling units as some of the challenges.
Another, he said, was inadequate number of trained personnel to interface with disabled persons on electoral issues, assuring that the electoral body was determined to address the issues.
Ogunmola listed introduction of sign language interpretation on INEC programmes like Electoral Half Hour and message at collation centres for election results as part of steps to be taken in addressing the matter.
According to him, INEC is also working towards prevailing on political parties to mainstream people-living-with-disabilities into party decision-making process and leadership.
In addition, he said that the organisation would embark on recruitment of PLWDs into the INEC and come up with policy framework on electoral plans for them and other special group of stakeholders.
The commissioner expressed determination of INEC to deepen the participation of the persons in the electoral processes, urging participants to come up with suggestions to aid this.
“As a responsive institution, INEC appreciates the importance of inclusive electoral process, thus, its commitment to open up the electoral space for citizens, including people-living-with-disabilities,’’ he said.
Also speaking, another INEC Commissioner, Mrs May Agbamuche, said that the electoral body would introduce Form EC40H to capture information and statistics of PLWDs in readiness for the elections.
Agbamuche also stated that magnifying glasses to aid participation of the visually-impaired, including albinos, would be introduced to aid the inclusion of some PLWDs into all the aspects of the electoral process.
Mrs Dorothy Bello, INEC Deputy Director, Civil Society Liaison, said that the workshop was organised to build the capacity of participants to relate and communicate effectively with PLWDs in an acceptable manner to discharge their duties.
She said that the workshop was coming at a time when preparations were on for the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states.
Bello stated that the knowledge and experience to be shared at the workshop would guide the participants to interact effectively with disabled people before and during the elections.
“As desk officers, we need to be well-equipped and trained on how to use better language when communicating with people-living-with-disabilities in order to deepen our democracy,” she said.
Earlier in his welcome address, Resident Electoral Commissioner in Kogi, Prof. James Apam, called on participants to take the workshop seriously, saying it was part of efforts to conduct free, fair and acceptable elections in future.
Participants were drawn from the INEC offices in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.