Ahead of the 2023 General Elections, the Centre for Citizens With Disabilities (CCD) has solicited the support of Lagos State Office For Disabilities Affairs (LASODA) and Lagos State Independence Electoral Commission (LASIEC) for an inclusive electoral process.
Ekemini said that Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) encountered systematic exclusion in the election process, saying particularly those that participated in July 2021 Local Government election in Lagos State faced numerous challenges.
He said there was a need to tackle and bring down identified challenges, adding that LASODA should collaborate with LASIEC to ensure that PWDs were not left by election observers, ad-hoc staff, and other key stakeholders in the processes.
According to him, the challenges which pose as barriers that limit equal participation of PWDs in the electoral process include lack of sign language for deaf clusters, lack of braille format for the blind, and magnifying glasses for the albinos.
“LASODA should always make a deliberate effort to ascertain from LASIEC that these are available, accessible in an understandable usable format, particularly for PWDs in the next years and subsequent elections.
“Security agents should be trained to give priority to PWDs during the election and electioneering, also, sister agencies in order to create equal voting access,” he added.
Mrs. Florence Austin, the Finance of CCD, disclosed that the body had embarked on a project targeted at breaking barriers that prevent PWDs from accessing airport services on an equal basis with others.
Austin, who spoke on behalf of Mr. David Anyaele, Executive Director of CCD, said that the Coalition Of Disability Organisation (CODO) in partnership with CCD, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Nigeria (SCIAN), and Hope Alive for Possible Initiative (HAPI), we’re presently working on a project, “Enhancing Access to Airport with PWDs”.
Meanwhile, she called on the Federal Airport of Nigeria (FAAN) to urgently conduct an audit of all airports in the country for disabilities facilities and provisions which must involve the Organisation for Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) including other stakeholders.
“They should procure and deploy mobile wheelchairs to support boarding and disembarking of physically challenge passengers from the aircraft, as well as friendly buses at the tarmacs,” Austin added.
She recommended that special training be organized for airport and airline personnel on the needs of PWDs and how best to meet and assist them, as rendering assistance must be made mandatory.
Responding, the General Manager of LASODA, Mr. Dare Dairo, who applauded the CCD and partners for the initiative, assured the stakeholders of their maximum support that PWDs would not be left behind, as emphasized by Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state.
“At LASODA, we believe in the systematic chain, we really need the system to work because when the system works, you don’t need to know anybody to access what should be ordinarily available.
“There is no single hospital or classroom under LASODA. So, we need to work with the Ministry of Health and Education in order to achieve these mandates, so everything still boils down to a system.
“We have to create the right structure, understanding for synergy because synergy is the way to achieve a common goal, note, civil society worldwide has passed the stage of carrying placards,” he added.
“It is therefore fundamental that we bring the system to speed in order to ensure that inclusion is on the front burner, you are not alone in the fight,” he added.
The LASODA GM urged the groups and stakeholders to be more proactive, especially with the political season and electioneering in the nation to attain a common goal.