Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD) together with Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG) have called on the Electoral Commission (EC) to implement disability-friendly accesses to the voter register exhibition and the upcoming elections.

GFD and MEHSOG extended the call to other Civil Society Organisations to help advocate for the consideration of the needs of persons with disabilities in the set up of the EC’s registration and voting centres in the future.

Our immediate concern is that if no conscious action is taken to remove unwarranted roadblocks this could persist and perhaps worsen before and during the December elections.

As disability membership organizations, we frown on all barriers to real participation and support every good practice of disability inclusion in the upcoming voter exhibition and elections in Ghana.

It is in light of the foregoing that we remind the Electoral Commission of previous reports of incidents in certain parts of the country where persons with disability who had turned up either at registration centers to register or at voting centers on election days to vote in national or local elections were scornfully treated or shabbily handled.

The unwarranted discretion by persons put in positions of trust in the past to deliver public service and some members of communities is not only disturbing but goes to underline the huge stigmatisation and negative public attitudes towards persons with disabilities.

It is this stigmatisation and negative social perception regarding the capabilities of persons with disabilities that persist and plays a major role in their marginalization from politics.

The call for inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life is in line with Article 29 of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which prescribes that: “States Parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others, and shall undertake to: (a) Ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected……”

The Constitution,1992, as the country’s highest law assures civil and political rights, including the right to participate in elections, since 1993. Article 42 of the Constitution empowers every citizen of Ghana of eighteen (18) years of age or above and of sound mind to register as a voter and vote in public elections and referendum.

This is why reported incidents (and perhaps many unreported ones) of denial of political rights of persons with disabilities must be a concern to all if we are to overcome the scourge of stigmatization and negative social perception regarding the capabilities of persons with physical, mental health conditions and other forms of disability that persists and plays a major role in keeping them away from participation in social, economic and political affairs.

For almost 10 years, both organisations have been working together to promote the rights of persons with mental health disabilities and enabling their voice to be heard not only on including them in political activities at all levels-national and/or local- but even more importantly, how they as well as their care-givers suffer from social exclusion.

As part of the mission of GFD and MEHSOG to represent persons with disabilities including mental health in Ghana and to encourage the government to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities, we call on the Electoral Commission to take immediate steps to ensure that all persons with disabilities, including those who have stabilized in their mental health conditions, take equal part in the upcoming voter exhibition and election.

Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations expects that when the voter exhibition and election begin, persons suffering from mental health and other forms of disabilities can continue to fully exercise their rights and equally participate in that exercise and in all subsequent exercises on the calendar of the Electoral Commission, without let and/or hindrance from any institution, individual or group of individuals.

In effect, the Organization wants to witness a situation where all persons with disabilities who present themselves at exhibition and voting centers with the intent of getting onto the current electoral roll are given unfettered admission and participation in same way as other qualified citizens, and where necessary, provided the needed support to participate in the exercise.

The group also commended the Electoral Commission for making it possible for vulnerable persons including the aged to access voters services in their District Offices and that in the past, the Commission, had, in its wisdom, varied its own procedure in the case of persons with physical and other forms of disabilities to participate in its activities.

The Ghana Federation of Disability Organization, indicated that the 2016 elections, as a result of a forum it organized between the (GFD) and the Electoral Commission; three people with disabilities in the Upper East Region were recruited, trained and used as presiding officers at the elections.

The Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD) and Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG) assured the Electoral Commission that it is willing and ready to cooperate and engage it on the pertinent issues of access, inclusion and participation.