Persons living with disabilities in the country are likely to face exclusion in the limited voter registration exercise that commenced today.
The exercise is set to take place at all the 268 District offices of the Electoral Commission (EC) nationwide for eligible Ghanaians, who have turned 18 and above to be enrolled on the register.
It forms part of the EC’s preparations towards the conduct of the 2024 general elections in 2024.
But the Ghana Federation of Disability organisations (GFD) believes a certain percentage of Ghanaians might be disenfranchised if the EC does not take the appropriate measures to salvage the situation. This is because the GFD believes most of the district offices of the EC where the exercise would be held are not accessible to persons with physical disabilities.
The disability community believes it is facing an impactful sideline because aside the inaccessible physical environment, the EC failed to communicate the exercise to their members who are hearing impaired as it failed to use sign language interpreters during its press conference to announce the exercise on August 17, 2023. Not to mention the proximity issue of the EC offices among several other challenges.
Addressing the press at the GFD head office Monday, September 11, a member of the National Advocacy Committee of GFD, Dr Peter Obeng Asamoa said if the EC does not deal with the aforementioned challenges, there will be a barrier between the PWDs and the right to exercise their franchise.
“As a Federation, we are aware that one of the major challenges persons with disabilities encounter is accessibility. Most of the district offices of the Electoral Commission are not accessible to persons with physical and other disabilities, and they may find it difficult or impossible to get to the EC offices where the registration will take place.” He said.
“Another challenge that we have identified is communication. The EC offices, just like other state institutions, do not have sign language interpreters, this will make it difficult for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing as well as those who are deafblind to communicate effectively with registration officials and to receive proper assistance during the registration process. In effect, they likely not to be part of the process. Moreover, some persons with disabilities may not have access to sufficient information about the registration exercise due to its location, and how information is being disseminated which can lead to confusion and frustration. They may not know when or where they can register and as a result, they may miss out on the exercise. For instance, initial awareness videos shown on the television about the exercise did not have sign language interpretation to target the deaf community.”
“This means that they even watch the adverts and will not know what is happening. Again, proximity has been identified as one other serious challenge we must consider. It poses a significant barrier for many persons with disabilities as they may have to transport themselves and their assistants or assistive/mobility devices such as wheelchairs all the way from their immediate communities to the EC offices which can be expensive. Some persons with disabilities may not be able to afford transportation costs, and this may prevent them from participating in the exercise. Dr Obeng who is the Executive Director of the Ghana Blind Union added.
They are therefore urging the EC to as a matter of right and propriety take seriously what they describe as a “clarion call” to deal with the situation, adding they are open to a collaboration to ensure the desired result is achieved.
Kindly read the GFD’s full statement below