ECZ TO PROVIDE TACTILE BRAILLE JACKETS DURING THE GENERAL ELECTION

A Zambian woman marks her ballot for the Zambian Presidential elections at a polling station on January 20, 2015 in Lusaka. Polling opened in Zambia's tightly contested vote to elect a president after a ruling party power struggle following the death of Michael Sata in office last year. The two top contenders are Defence Minister Edgar Lungu, 58, representing the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), and opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema, 52, of the United Party for National Development (UPND). AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Photo credit: GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

The forth coming general election should be an inclusive civic process for all people involved, including those living with disabilities. In 2016, the Electoral Commission of Zambia budgeted more than k79, 000,000 on assisting those living with disabilities. Further to this, an investigation done by the Disability Rights Watch revealed that the plan for the money was not fully implemented.

For the 2021 general election, they have not disclosed how much they have budgeted, however. This year the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has said that they have made some necessary modalities for voters with disabilities to be able to participate in the elections. They have provided voters with visual impairments tactile braille jackets so as to allow them to vote. This jacket goes over the ballot paper and allows them to read through the ballots in braille. Those who are not braille literate will have assistance from one of the electoral officers on site, according to the ECZ.

People living with disabilities have the right to participate in all electoral processes, including vying for office and casting their vote. The ECZ however, have failed to give statistics for how many people living with disabilities did register to vote.

This figure is important as it will allow us to assess the commission’s commitment to ensuring that every eligible citizen registers to vote. At the same time, people living with disabilities should be encouraged to not only cast their votes, but also run for office. It is worth noting that there were some candidates living with disabilities who managed to successfully file in their nominations. There are reports that some of these candidates have been facing discrimination from other candidates and as such the ECZ should provide enough checks and balances to prevent the intimidation of candidates who are living with disabilities.

People living with disabilities are many, and interventions should cater to all. The ECZ has indicated that it will make sure that polling stations are accessible, by having ramps, and ensuring that all polls are on the ground level of polling stations. This is a step in the right direction.

The ECZ should ensure that voting is as easy and accessible for all citizens. There should be enough transparency, investment and modalities for those living with disabilities.

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