The chairperson of the Namibian Federation for the Visually Impaired, Moses Nghipandulwa, yesterday lauded the electoral body for availing them braille ballot papers during the just ended regional council and local authority elections.
In the past, the visually impaired expressed concern that their democratic rights to vote are not being considered due to a lack of guiding materials by the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN).
For years, the visually impaired have had to rely on polling staff to read out to them the list of candidates and their details.
Alternatively, they must rely on a trusted person to assist them in voting for their preferred candidate.
According to them, relying on helpers to vote is unjust and undemocratic because such helpers can take advantage and lure them into voting for certain candidates.
However, Nghipandulwa said this time around, the ECN has provided braille ballot papers as their guiding materials during the elections.
“The elections were free and fair. We cast our votes based on the parties we want. It was conducted in a manner where braille materials were made available. ECN printed braille ballot papers to assist all visually impaired people when casting their votes across the country,” he noted.
Equally, he applauded ECN for providing education and awareness for the visually impaired people before the elections.
According to him, ECN approached them to get their views and needs before the election day.
“They asked us what could be good for us, and we gave them our inputs and we told them to provide these braille ballot papers. We have exercised our democratic rights,” he said.
Nghipandulwa narrated that on 25 November 2020, he went to cast his vote at Samora Machel constituency in Katutura.
“I asked them to give me the braille ballot paper for the visually impaired. They first gave me for regional council election and then after they gave me the local authority one to vote. I also contacted my colleagues across the country, and they confirmed that the braille ballot papers were made available at polling stations,” he maintained.
Further, he said during the just-ended elections, the federation worked very closely with the ECN.
However, he said they faced a challenge because some polling officials lack knowledge on the usage of the braille ballot papers.
Therefore, he has requested the ECN to train its polling officials well in advance for the elections to fully accommodate the visually impaired people.
Further, he asked the ECN to include the needs of people living with disabilities in their electoral processes, policies, and programmes so their voices are heard.
Moreover, Nghipandulwa said he is glad that some people living with disabilities are participating in the politics of the day. He cited a candidate living with disabilities who took part in Usakos local authority elections.