Persons with disability heighten calls for easier voting access

first_img…call for independent votingWith Guyana heading into elections mode for the 2020 polls, persons with disabilities have intensified requests for provisions be made for them to exercise their franchise as any normal person.On Friday at the National Library, a conference was organised by the Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCPD) as a step towards ensuring independent voting. Recommendations were drafted so that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) could be previewed to some of the challenges facing those with a disability.Ganesh Singh, who has been a strong advocate for persons living with a disability, expressed that many of them are living on the fringes of society where there are limited opportunities. However, their right to vote must be upheld. It was estimated that some 30,000 persons living with a disability in Guyana are within the voting age. While they are willing to go out and cast their ballots, policies must be implemented for them to successfully do so.“This is a critical time for Guyana…Next March will be National and Regional Elections and we, as a disability community, can have a say in the future of Guyana by voting. But we can’t just go and vote if we don’t understand the process,” Singh expressed.Meanwhile, Chairman of the Council, Cecil Morris insisted that all these efforts are to ensure that the disabled community is provided with equal opportunities. For years, they have been advocating for policies to be crafted, allowing persons with various disabilities to vote.“Every time its elections, we make our pleas to Government, to GECOM, everybody, to give us, persons with disabilities, the kind of respect that is due to us. We must be able to go at polling stations without a hassle and cast our vote. It’s important to us to play a part, especially at this point in time, in the development of Guyana. We need to get our rights…and things that are due to us. One of the things that is needed is for people to understand that as a person with disability, you have the right as any normal person,” Morris positioned.Fundamental rightUnited States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah Ann Lynch was also in attendance, where she emphasised that voting is a fundamental right and inclusivity must be regarded beyond race, religion, gender and also, a disability.GCPD Chairman Cecil MorrisThis, she said, can be achieved by employing simple measures.“The right to vote is an important form of enfranchisement in any democracy but exercising the right to vote requires access. In Guyana, access isn’t always easy for persons with disabilities. I have come to realise that there are specific measures that can make voting more accessible, for example, providing options for blind or visually impaired Guyanese to vote privately and independently; outline special instructions for voters who are deaf and building ramps [and] slip-resistant surfaces for the physically impaired,” she outlined.ChallengesSome of the challenges when voting includes access for wheelchair users. Many times, polling stations are situated on the upper flat of buildings, where accessibility becomes a major issue.Persons suffering from a vision impairment have requested templates for them to put over the ballot paper, which will allow them to vote independently. In the past, they were tasked with enabling a proxy to conduct this process on their behalf.Morris, who is also President of the Guyana Society for the Blind, had indicated to Guyana Times in March that during the General Elections in 2015, templates were introduced for them to us. However, the templates were not utilised by officers at the polls.According to the World Health Organisation, about 15 per cent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. Of this figure, two to four per cent experience significant difficulties in functioning.General and Regional Elections are slated for March 2, 2020 – indicating that there is less than three months to introduce these provisions. (Rupa Seenaraine)alast_img read more