The Ghana Federation of Disability (GFD) has called upon the Electoral Commission (EC) to implement effective measures to prevent the disenfranchisement of individuals with disabilities.
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.”
In a press release, the Ghana Federation of Disability (GFD) pinpointed concerns related to accessibility, communication, proximity, and the insufficient availability of information for individuals with various physical challenges.
The ongoing limited voter registration process, which began on September 12 and is set to conclude on October 2, 2023, has so far registered 182,831 new voters within the initial six days.
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.
The GFD pointed out that certain individuals with disabilities might face challenges in accessing adequate information about the registration exercise due to their geographical location and the methods used to disseminate information.
“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.
Furthermore, the organization urged the Electoral Commission (EC) to establish a collaborative partnership with the GFD. This partnership would focus on providing technical assistance and guidance to ensure the full and effective inclusion of all individuals with disabilities in the registration process.