PWDs Call For Disability Friendly Polling Stations.
Persons with disabilities (PWDs) say they feel left out in the country’s voting process as their long-standing demands are still not addressed by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and political parties.
In an interview with Emmancipate Disability Trust director and who is also the ambassador for African Union Youth Council, Nyasha Nhau said PWDs have been crying out loudly for ZEC to address their long-standing demands that are making it difficult for them to participate in the voting processes.
“ZEC should not continue to deprive us of our rights, we have been calling out for help from all stakeholders to intervene so that we participate in the voting process. I traveled to different provinces to observe and find out the population of PWDs who turned out on the election day but I concluded that none or less had been done to enable us to vote, only barriers”, said Nyasha Nhau.
He added that the polling Stations were not easily accessible as some were far from communities, thereby placing a barrier for PWDs (visually impaired, wheelchair users, and other different forms of disability) to reach the sites.
Disability organisation, Signs of Hope Trust Zimbabwe this year launched a campaign to push every citizen, government, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to influence policy-makers in ensuring that the election field was conducive for PWDs on the just 26 March 2022 by-elections.
Some of the issues at hand concern the visually impaired and call on ZEC to provide the braille material so that they cast their votes confidentially with the provision of self privacy and security.
Speaking with the director of Signs of Hope Trust, Samantha Sibanda noted that the government, political parties, and ZEC itself are turning a blind eye as the election information is inaccessible, and not user-friendly to PWDs. Some of them require sign language interpreters to assist in the voting process.
In an effort to enable PWDs to vote, Sibanda said some disability organizations have been advocating for a greater population of PWDs who do not have identity documents to acquire them as they are required as a prerequisite for one to register to vote.
A lawyer with visual impairment, Abraham Mateta echoed Samanthas’ sentiments and noted that when framing and programming campaigning messages political parties are excluding PWDs, the mobility of the venue, state of the venue, and packaging of the message are a barrier for them to participate.
Dr. Emmanuel Muneno a researcher from Zimbabwe Open University said political parties should also take the blame for letting down PWDs in the election process. According to Munemo’s survey, PWDs fear expressing their political rights in the electoral process, and their security is not guaranteed whenever they are caught up in politically motivated violence.
Meanwhile, various organisations of PWDs suggested that there should be future consultations to hear what their members need in order to enable them to vote.