EXPLORING CHALLENGES OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS IN SELECTED AREAS OF LUSAKA DISTRICT
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This Study investigated the challenges of persons with disabilities in the electoral process in selected areas of Lusaka District. Specifically, the study investigated accessibility of polling stations, electoral materials and adequacy of laws and policies that promote participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process as well as the impact of electoral conflicts. The study has demonstrated that Zambia, like many countries in the world; persons with disabilities are faced with several challenges occurring at individual or micro level as well as those determined by the socio-economic and environmental or macro level in participating in the electoraHowever, the most prominent of them all is inaccessible infrastructure such as polling stations. Others which directly contribute to inaccessible infrastructure include inadequate tactile materials for the visually impaired and other assistive devices as well as long distances to polling stations. This study has also shown that electoral conflicts is also one of the challenges that persons with disabilities face in their quest to participate in the electoral process at various levels as well as negative perceptions that people without disabilities have towards those with disabilities. With regard to policies, the study has demonstrated that although laws and policies that are aimed at promoting and mainstreaming disability issues in all sectors of development and particularly the participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process are in place, they are not adequately implemented to address the many aspects and challenges faced by persons with disabilities. In view of these findings, the study recommends for the implementation of the provisions of the laws and policies and in particular the adequate implementation of laws and policies on election and processes. The study further recommends that facilities and processes put in place must not in any way restrict the right to vote for any citizen. Voting procedures, facilities and materials should be appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use for all. There is also need to provide voter education and information in accessible formats (for example, large print, electronic format for voters that use screen-reading technology, written material, and easy-to-understand language for persons with intellectual disabilities). The study also strongly recommends providing closed captions and sign language interpreters on televised voter information announcements.
The University of Zambia