Promoting inclusive participation of PWDs and Vulnerable Groups in elections 2020
By Joyce Hilda Efia Aboagye
The marginalization of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) goes beyond the discrimination they face from society to discrimination in accessing equal opportunities in the democratic processes of countries such as elections.
A classic example of this in Ghana is the fact that the ongoing voter registration process has no section on forms to capture various disabilities aside physical disabilities.
This and other issues were key during the maiden edition of Penplusbytes’ Webinar Series hosted virtually on Thursday, July 16, 2020.
The virtual event, which hosted over forty global participants, had as lead discussants, Mr. Alexander Bankole Williams, an Advisory Board Member of the Coalition of Election Observers (CODEO) and Mr. Alex Tetteh, the President for the Centre for the Employment of Persons with Disability (CEPD).
Persons with disabilities constitute 15 percent of Ghana’s current population of about 30 million. There persists the issue of the lack of a comprehensive database for this segment of the population. Mr. Bankole Williams reiterated, the country has often focused on persons whose disabilities are moderate, severe or profound whereas a large portion of PWDs fall within the mild to moderate category. This, he says, has accounted for the shortfall in achieving full participation of eligible PWDs in elections.
An estimated 2-3 million PWDs should be able to participate in political and electoral activities in Ghana, but this is not far from reality.
Persons with physical disabilities for instance, have from 1992 till date had polling stations that are inaccessible for wheel chair users and deaf persons have also had difficulties in communicating with electoral officers during the registration processes.
These persons have resorted to finding their own aids to go with them to polling stations during registration and voting periods at their own expense.
Ghana in 2002 made an effort in addressing some of these challenges by providing the visually impaired with the tactile ballot system through the support of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). This notwithstanding, a lot more remains to be done in order to attain the full participation of PWDs in elections.
Penplusbytes’ Webinar Series on Ghana’s Election 2020 will look at ways in which technology, pointed advocacy, as well as a self-help attitude can ensure that there are no unfair restrictions placed on persons with disabilities.
The webinar series is a weekly virtual meet-up that seeks to engage citizens on relevant issues around elections and other topical issues around Penplusbytes’ thematic areas; New Media and Innovations, Good Governance and Accountability, effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources, and Health, Environment and Research.