Polling stations not user-friendly for PWDs

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An elderly woman pushes herself on a wheelchair

BY PRIDE MZARABANI
PERSONS with disabilities (PWDs) have complained that polling stations were inaccessible to them during the March 26 by-elections with some situated in the bush which made them unreachable on wheelchairs.

“At some polling stations, election officers did not understand issues around disability and how to assist PWDs. Some polling officers also did not care. However, within the manual for election officers, there is information on how they should handle PWDs, but some polling officers chose to ignore that manual as if they were not aware of it,” said Disability Reform Coalition chairperson Masimba Kuchera during a Twitter space discussion on how people with disabilities were treated during the by-elections.

“For instance, the hearing impaired were not catered for because polling stations did not have sign language interpreters. So, it was difficult for some of our colleagues to exercise their right to vote, and in some cases it was impossible,” he said.

Kuchera said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) had always used the excuse of insufficient resources for failing to cater for PWDs.

“There is very little appetite to invest in PWDs by Zec. Maybe we have not exerted much pressure. They must be able to find money to ensure PWDs take part in elections.  It’s probably that they are not willing to do so,” he added.

A representative from Deaf Zimbabwe Trust said the organisation engaged Zec over the issues faced by PWDs during elections, but was told that resources were inadequate.

Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana asked NewsDay to send questions in writing and had not responded to the paper’s questions by the time of going to print last night.