The Malawi Union for the Blind (MUB) has cautioned the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) that lack of an inclusive electoral process disfranchises people with disabilities.
MUB executive director Ezekiel Kumwenda said this in Blantyre last week during a training of Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) Media Committee.
He said Fedoma and its member organisations such as MUB and the community have a role to play in promoting inclusion, representation and participation of people with disability in the political process.
“To encourage citizens with disabilities to become involved in the political process, it is important that the electoral process takes into account their needs.
“The visually impaired and deaf-blind voters must be provided with electoral information in accessible format such as Braille and tactile communication.
The visually impaired and deaf-blind voter must use a tactile ballot guide to ensure that they vote independently without the influence of the sighted people.
Those with hearing impairment should be reached with sign language,” said Kumwenda.
He said a study by Fedoma indicates that voters with disability are significantly disenfranchised.
Kumwenda said those with physical disabilities often have difficulty travelling to voting and legislation centre whereas the visually impaired and deaf-blind voters have little or no access to information.
He added that the hearing impaired lack sign language interpreters.
“Citizens in a democracy expect to enjoy certain fundamental rights. One such right is the right to vote. This fundamental right should be promoted and protected by the State.
“The lack of an inclusive electoral process renders people with disabilities ineffective in safeguarding and defending their rights as well as fully participation in affairs affecting their civic and political life,” he said.
Fedoma Media Committee secretary Rhodes Msonkho thanked Fedoma for organising the workshop which many described as an eye-opener.