Saturday, January 22, 2022

IEC looks to include the visually impaired in this year’s general elections

They say your vote is your secret but that may not be the case for People with Disabilities (PWS) particularly the visually impaired.

Absolute privacy and independence when casting a vote in elections, is one of the most fundamental and cherished of Batswana’s constitutional rights.

Yet that privilege has not always been enjoyed by all. Although visually impaired people will this year enjoy their right to choose a government of their choice they will not do so with absolute privacy.

“A presiding officer will be there to guide them through their voting process and ensure they do it properly,” said Independent Electoral Commission’s Chief Information/Education Officer Motlapele Raleru.

But can the presiding officer be trusted not to influence the voter’s choice? Raleru said besides the training they can only pin their hopes on the integrity of the presiding officer.
“We have to assume they would not abuse their position,” she told The Telegraph.

Although the braille template was introduced for the first time in the 2009 general elections it was at the time too little too late, said Onneile Raditloaneng, Secretarial Studies Instructor at Pudulogong Rehabilitation Centre.

“There was a special program for the visually impaired in the previous general elections but we rejected it because it was not user friendly and introduced too late,” Raditoaneng, also visually impaired, said.

She said they were currently training their members on the new method of voting. “We hope to one day be provided with enough material to eliminate a third party from the booth,” she told The Telegraph.

IEC’s Raleru said they had a meeting with the centre management after which they were requested to provide an instruction manual on the voting process. The challenge when it comes to voting also extends to other societies like the Deaf.

“Deaf people generally may not vote because they are not well informed,” said Oreneile Matsetse of Botswana Society for the Deaf. She however said the IEC have been doing their best to include the deaf by having a sign language interpreter in their campaign material.

“It is hard enough to convince able bodied people to vote even with all the information at their disposal,” she said, “now you can imagine what it should take to convince a hearing impaired individual with a relatively limited source of information to vote.”

On whether the IEC have any plans to set a special day of voting for PWDs Raleru said the matter is completely out of their hands. “The legislators are the only ones who can change that,” she said.


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