The leadership of the Alliance on Disabilities has commended the National Elections Commission (NEC) for its commitment to ensure that persons with disabilities fully participate in the ongoing electoral processes.
The NEC, in its recent statement on the progress of the voter registration (VR) process, said it is committed to ensuring accessibility for persons with disabilities during the electoral processes.
NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya outlined four steps to removing barriers to enable full and equal participation of disabled persons in the electoral process, a right guaranteed in the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability. Korkoya pointed to providing “priority in the line” for persons with disabilities, the option of introducing tactile ballots for voters with visual impairments, instructions to magistrates to compile a list of registration centers that, because of long stairs, would be inaccessible to those with physical challenges, and “where possible” relocate those areas to lower levels that are more accessible on the site.
Ricardia Dennis, executive director of the National Commission on Disabilities (NCD), described the NEC’s decision as a break from the past, and a signal of effective advocacy over many years.
The physically challenged Dennis said: “The NCD congratulates chairman Korkoya and his team for making real their commitment to ensure that all Liberians including persons living with disabilities fully participate in the elections, irrespective of their peculiar circumstances. We hail chairman Korkoya and look forward to working with the Commission to fulfill Liberian’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
The head of the National Union of Organizations of the Disabled (NUOD) and co-Chair of the Alliance on Disability, Naomi Harris, said persons with disabilities in Liberia needed the opportunity to freely participate in the electoral processes.
Harris said: “It has been a long effort. When it comes to the sacred voting right of all persons, persons with disabilities become an exception, especially the visually impaired persons to be accompanied by ‘trusted persons’ to cast ballots on their behalf.”
This practice, she said, has compromised the self-respect of persons with disabilities. “We look forward to working with the NEC to make real the commitment of tactile ballots for those with visual impairments,” she added.
Tactile ballots are made with raised symbols to represent the different candidates, where the visually impaired voter could make the choice by feeling rather than seeing the choice. It has been used successfully all over the world.
Harris said “NUOD is excited about this commitment from the Commission.”
The Alliance on Disabilities is a group platform of local and international organizations including government institutions working in the field of disability rights and inclusion. It seeks to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for all persons with disabilities in Liberia.