Persons with Disabilities Raise Concerns Over Accessibility of 2018 Election in Zimbabwe
Africa, Built Environment, October 5 2017
HARARE: Persons with disabilities want the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to put specific registration measures that would allow their constituencies to participate in next year’s crucial elections —starting with the biometric voter registration exercise which got underway last week.
Senator representing people with disabilities, Nyamayabo Mashavakure, said the importance of a friendly environment for persons with disabilities to exercise their right to vote cannot be over emphasised.
“I have put it to Zec that we need things like sign language, voter education material in braille and that registration centres be easily accessible.
“Even the tables need to be friendly to persons with disabilities and the personnel who are conducting the registration process.
“Personally, I can’t see and I would need an electronic system that tells me the information I have entered,” Mashavakure told the Daily News.
Zec chairperson Rita Makarau acknowledged the gap and insisted the commission was working to improve the situation but could not be drawn to give a definite date when this would be put in place.
“We have taken note of that. We are working on it,” Makarau told the Daily News.
Late last month, people with mobility disabilities staged a demonstration in Harare in protest over the lack of universal accessibility at polling stations that make individuals with disabilities feel like an afterthought.
The Zimbabwe People and Parents for Children with Disabilities (ZPPCD) presented a petition to President Robert Mugabe, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Social Welfare minister Priscah Mupfumira.
They said polling stations lack all of the accommodations necessary for people with limited mobility to use and wanted voting booths fitted with ramps and made accessible to people on wheelchairs.
Their concerns also include accessibility of registration centres, availability of assistive services such as sign language interpretation for the deaf and voter education material in braille.
They said the lack of attention to this issue sends out a message that the votes of persons with disabilities do not matter.