The United Nations Information Centre, Lagos, on Thursday urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to make the electoral process more inclusive for People Living with Disabilities.
Dr Roland Kayanja, the Director of UNIC, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
Kayanja spoke against the background of the just concluded Osun election and his expectations for the most vulnerable in the 2019 general elections.
According to him, INEC made adequate provisions for PLWD, especially by providing braille for the blind during the just concluded Osun governorship election.
He said: “It was a commendable move by INEC and a step in the right direction.
“That move showed that INEC did not want to exclude anyone just because the person has one form of disability or the other.
“But, we are calling for inclusion of people with other disabilities, such as the deaf, in the future elections, particularly the 2019 general elections.
“One of the most important human rights that one has as a Nigerian is the right to determine who leads the country or state.
“If you are disenfranchised from that, you are losing one of your fundamental human rights as a citizen.”
The UNIC director said the deaf, like every other citizens, have rights to vote and be voted for; rights to live and right to education and as such, they should not be denied of any.
He also suggested the need for every person to learn sign language to bridge the gap between the deaf and those who have no hearing impediment.
Kayanja called on INEC and other institutions to ensure that sign language specialists were employed to interpret and carry along the deaf people during elections.
Kayanja said: “In Nigeria, it is estimated that there are probably more than 20 million deaf people and that alone is a big population; we cannot continue to exclude them.’’
He urged the state governments to emulate Lagos State for the giant strides it had made toward empowering people living with disabilities.
Also, Treasures Uchegbu, a Sign Language specialist, popularly known as “Speaking Fingers’’ urged INEC to do more for the disabled and the deaf in the future elections.
Uchegbu said: “The provision of braille to PLWDs during Osun election was a good start. It was a positive step in the development in our nationhood.
“However, the inclusion is large and it is progressive; it is not a one stop activity; it is also a journey and we are not yet there.
“As the commission makes provision to include people living with disabilities in the 2019 general elections, one thing we hope to see is sign language interpreters.
“This way, they will have easy access to members of the society who are deaf-mute and hard of hearing; with sign language, everyone will be able to participate in the elections.”