As Kenyans gear up for August polls, it is imperative to address physical and social barriers which may hinder People Living with Disability (PLWD) from fully and effectively enjoying their right to political participation.
The umbrella movement for persons with disabilities, United Disabled Persons of Kenya, in collaboration with Disabled Persons Organisations has launched initiatives countrywide to ensure the disabled participate in the electoral process.
A number of barriers to their political participation have been identified. The IEBC should ensure such barriers are addressed and appropriate measures taken to ensure this special group participates. The 2009 population census puts the number of persons with disabilities at 3.5 per cent.
However, the World Health Organisation estimates that 15 per cent of any given population has some form of disability which translates into about six million Kenyans. In as far as barriers to political participation are concerned, a number of issues emerge.
There are challenges of mobility in terms of physical accessibility to polling stations. It is worth noting that IEBC has been responsive to the needs of persons with disabilities where we have, for example, seen their dedication to have mobile voter kits for voter verification by disabled voters.
However, question is, when the Election Day comes, are all the polling stations going to be accessible to persons with physical disability? For example, are there ramps in the centres or are the doors wide enough to accommodate someone on a wheelchair?
There are also social barriers likely to hinder their participation in the electoral process. They include societal attitudes towards disability, stigma and discrimination. It is even more likely, that there are caregivers who will discourage them from engaging in the electoral process.
It is also worthwhile to consider communication barriers in as far as political participation is concerned. That Is why it is important to relay information that is in easy to read and understand formats. Political rights are indeed enshrined in our Constitution. As such, let IEBC ensure that no one is left behind.
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