Sign Language Specialist Advocates Full Participation of PwDs’ in Elections

A Sign Language specialist, Mrs. Treasue Uchegbu, has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make arrangement for the full participation of Persons Living with Disabilities (PwDs) in the 2019 general elections.

Uchegbu, popularly known as “Speaking Fingers’’, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos.

She said: “INEC should ensure that PwDs find it easy to access the polling stations and booths.

“I also urge the commission to provide them with sign language interpreters, Braille format and magnifying glasses.

“Some PwDs, including the deaf, will need hearing aids; those with physical mobility challenges will need wheelchairs, while large prints will be necessary for the visually impaired.

“Putting all these in place will make it easy for them to exercise their voting rights, thereby ensuring total inclusion for the PwDs clusters.’’

According to her,  inclusive electoral participation of persons with disabilities will help mitigate the diverse barriers to access to information.

“It will increase awareness, reduce stigma as well as social attitudes and inaccessibility to physical infrastructure.

“This will also open more opportunities for participatory governance,’’ Uchegbu said.

She also called for adequate security at the polling stations, transportation for them on the elections day, as well as the easy collection of Permanent Voter’s Cards, among other things.

“These will make their involvement in the electoral process easy, free and accessible for them,’’ she said.

The sign language expert also encouraged PwDs to contest for elective positions.

“I encourage and advise any qualified PwDs to show interest and signify the intention to contest any of the positions.

“Now is the time to get involved and contribute to making the nation better,’’ she said.

Uchegbu appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Disability Bill passed by the National Assembly to allow for full inclusion and integration of PwDs.

She said that once it became law, it would guarantee their rights to access information and economic opportunities.

NAN reports that the INEC had put the statistics of PwDs in Nigeria at well over 25 million men, women and children, of various age groups.

INEC, had in Calabar, during its validation meeting on the framework on access and participation of Persons with Disabilities, said it was committed to ensuring that the PwDs participated in the 2019 elections.

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