The Ghana Federation of Disability (GFD) has asked the Electoral Commission (EC) to use “appropriate measures” to ensure that persons with disabilities are not disenfranchised.
According to the organisation, the current arrangements by the EC were likely to “exclude many persons with disabilities from participating in the ongoing limited voter registration exercise due to a number of challenges they may face.”
The GFD, in a press statement, identified issues of accessibility, communication, proximity, and lack of “sufficient information” about the exercise for persons with different forms of physical challenges.
The limited voter registration exercise which is taking place at the district offices of the EC, commenced on September 12 and is expected to end on October 2, 2023, had, in the first six days, registered 182,831 new voters.
However, GFD, leading the advocacy for inclusion, said, “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 offices where the registration was taking place.
It further said 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 deaf to communicate effectively with registration officials and to receive proper assistance during the registration process. In effect, they are likely not to be part of the process,” the statement noted.
GFD said some persons with disabilities might not have access to sufficient information about the registration exercise due to their location and how information was being disseminated.
“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 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,” the GFD said.
The organisation added that the limited voter registration could be expensive to persons with disabilities as they might 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.”
“Some persons with disabilities may not be able to afford transportation costs, and this may prevent them from participating in the exercise,” it said, urging the Electoral Commission to consider the challenges identified and ensure that persons with disabilities exercised their constitutional right to vote.
The group further urged the EC to collaborate with GFD to provide technical support and advice for effective inclusion of all persons with disabilities in the registration exercise.