A ballot box filled with ballot is pictured before being counted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at a polling station in Yenagoa in Bayelsa State ~ PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
Enugu - Physically-challenged persons in Enugu State have appealed to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recruit sign language interpreters for polling centres in the forthcoming general elections in the state.
They made the appeal in Enugu on Monday at a workshop organised by INEC for physically-challenged persons ahead of the elections.
Mr Onyema Anioko, Chairman of Joint National Association of Persons with Disability (JONAPID) in the state, said that involving the interpreters in the elections would help the group to participate actively in the exercises.
According to him, employing sign language interpreters will help those of us with hearing impairment to know what to do during the elections.
Anioko urged the commission to also make policies that would cater for the needs of the physically-challenged in the country, especially during elections.
While thanking INEC for the workshop, he said that it had made it easy for his members to collect their Permanent Voter Cards.
Another member of the group, Mrs Victoria Nneji, called on the commission to make polling units easily accessible for the physically-challenged to avoid hitches during elections.
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"INEC should provide a conducive environment for the physically-challenged to access polling units and they should start both accreditation and voting on time to enable us participate effectively," she said.
In his contribution, President of National Association of Disabled Farmers in Enugu State, Mr Jacob Okeke, called for adequate measures to check harassment and security of physically-challenged persons during elections.
Earlier in a welcome address, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Prof. Chukwuemeka Onukaogu, pledged the commitment of the commission to ensure that no physically-challenged person was disenfranchised.
Onukaogu said that the aim of the workshop was to enlighten them on their roles for more inclusive and violence-free elections.
He said that the commission was developing a database of all physically-challenged persons in the state for effective planning and inclusion at the elections.
"We also want to present to them the new INEC Braille tool for the effective inclusion of people who are visually impaired to participate in the process.
"In 2011, we made a lot of mistakes and we have now purged ourselves of that; we want to improve this time around by involving the physically-challenged because they are citizens of our country," he said.
In a lecture, Mr Chibuzor Cromwell, Executive Director, Youths Education on Human Rights and Civic Responsibility, a civil society organisation, appealed to persons with disabilities to participate actively in the forthcoming elections in the state.
In the lecture entitled ‘’Making 2015 Elections More Inclusive and Violence-Free: The Role of INEC and Persons with Disabilities’’, Cromwell called on the physically-challenged to shun and report any form of violence during the elections.