ZIMBABWEANS living with disabilities are demanding that election material for the upcoming polls should be user-friendly and include a Braille element to enable them to participate on an equal footing with their able-bodied counterparts.
BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
Contributing to a workshop held in Beitbridge last week under the theme Harnessing the Power of Young Women and People with Disabilities by Strengthening their Participation in Electoral Processes,” people with disabilities said they were constitutionally entitled to demand equal voting rights.
“We feel they do not cater for us enough, there should be basic signage for the deaf at the border and officers should at least have a minimum appreciation of our mode of communication,” a deaf participant said.
A visually-impaired participant concurred, adding: “The officials are at times so corrupt and demand that we bribe them for us to receive food rations from government. We are not looked at as vulnerable when it comes to food but when job opportunities arise we are not considered.”
Solomon Bobosibunu, training and outreach manager at Election Resource Centre, encouraged participants to register to vote and urged the visually impaired to go into the polling booth in the company of a trustworthy relative who would help them vote for a candidate of their choice.
“You must participate in elections so that you voices are heard. We have engaged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for the possibility of braille ballot papers,” Bobosibunu said.
He also called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to ensure all polling stations are accessible to people living with disabilities.
Margaret Mutsamvi, director of Economic Justice for Women Project, who organised the workshop said her organisation was running three similar projects at Chivi, Ngundu and Beitbridge which have a high rate of activity by young women.
She said her organisation, apart from focusing on women, also developed the capacity of people with dissabilities to understand and actively participate in electoral processes.
“We picked Chivi, Ngundu and Beitbridge because they are areas of high economic activities where young women and disabled people tend to flock to. I will communicate with other non-governmental organisations covering certain areas that are of concern to the participants, but I am happy with the feedback.”
An estimated 7% of the Zimbabwean population is disabled.