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FEDOMA calls for inclusive elections

By Gift Mkulichi & Memory Khutuliwa

MUNDE: Some of the messages come in the format that is not appropriate to people with disabilities such as visual impairments. Education

Blantyre, March 27: Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (FEDOMA) Executive Director Simon Munde has suggested the need for wider literacy in braille among persons with visual impairment and deployment of sign language specialists in polling centres to assist persons with impairments vote for candidates of their choice.

In an interview, Munde said some of the challenges faced by people with visual impairment and those with hearing impairment are failure to read and interpret voter civic education messages that should enable them to make informed decisions on elections.

“Some of the messages come in the format that is not appropriate to people with disabilities such as visual impairments. Education institutions need to provide wider braille sign language literacy to ensure inclusiveness for all,” said Munde.

Munde highlighted the need for adequate funding and accreditation of organisations dealing with people with disabilities in voter civic education as an appropriate measure in reducing voter apathy.

In his remarks, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Communications Director Sangwani Mwafulirwa said the electoral body was in the process of accrediting CSOs to conduct civic and voter education that works with people with various forms of disabilities.

“Such organisations are already working with people with disabilities and it becomes easier for the organisations to reach out since they already know where the people are. The organisations have skills and knowledge on how to communicate with them,” said Mwafulirwa.

He said to enhance inclusiveness, the Commission will design messages ahead of the 2025 elections, targeting all people, including those with disabilities, so they also benefit.

“We will print braille literature for people with hearing impairment and they should be assured that there will be visual messages which will also be accompanied by sign language interpretation,” Mwafulirwa added.

On registration period and polling day, Mwafulirwa said all people with disabilities will be treated with priority.

“On the polling day, there will be tactile ballot templates which will be used by those with visual impairment to vote on their own,” he added.

He further explained that MEC will also employ Constituency Civic and Voter Education Assistants who will be placed in the constituency to teach people about elections and will also be tasked to target people with disabilities.

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