People with disability applaud efforts towards their engagement in 2015 elections

People with Disabilities (PWDs) have appreciated positive response by the National Electoral Committee (NEC) and other stakeholders to enhance their participation in the October 25th General elections.

Speaking at a press conference held in mid October in Dar es Salaam, the General Secretary of Shirikisho la Vyama Vyenye Ulemavu Tanzania (SHIVYAWATA) Mr. Felician Mkude, said they are now grateful that most of their concerns have been considered in a bid to enhance their participation in the 2015 elections.

This is an outcome following the PWDs position paper presented to NEC in February this year - calling for some immediate action on a number of issues.

It is thus on record that the earlier PWDs efforts to engage with NEC in February this year was made possible through the support from the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS), among other stakeholders.

“We recognize response from NEC in ensuring inclusive electoral processes for PWDs. The electoral body has dully prepared enabling environment as well as ensuring availability of voting materials that will facilitate our participation in the general elections. For instance, we have witnessed the introduction of tactile ballot folders for the visually impaired persons so as to ease the voting exercise, which will relieve the former from seeking assistance from relatives or friends, who might sometimes, misguide them to vote for candidates not of their choice,” Mr. Mkude told the media.

Ms. Stella Jailos, who is the Secretary General of the Disabled Women’s Organisation in Tanzania (SWAUTA) also acknowledges outcomes of the PWDs position paper presented to NEC earlier in the year, which has now resulted to most of their concerns been acted upon. She said in the previous general elections PWDs could not participate fully in the voting exercise since they had to travel long distances to seemingly fewer polling centers. She thus hailed authorities to have guaranteed an increased number of polling centres, which makes it easier for them.

Ms. Stella said they are also relieved that NEC has facilitated a better arrangement where PWDs and other special groups will not stand waiting in long queues during voting exercise. 

Mr. Kaganzi Rutachwamagyo from the Inclusive Development Promoters and Consultants (IDPC) added that NEC has ensured availability of sign language interpreters at polling centres to assist people with hearing impairments as in line with their demands slotted in the PWDs position paper. 

“Despite all the positive actions on our position paper, we have also made a recommendation to NEC to really ensure disability access at all polling centres, such as special paths for those using wheelchairs and the like,” added Kaganzi.

Fredrick Msigala, who is an advocacy officer at the CCBRT hospitals emphasized the need for NEC to provide training to their electoral supervisors on how to assist PWDs during voting, as well as provision of voter education to PWDs on the use of election materials.

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