Elections body prepares for smooth vote for PWD
AMMAN, Jan 21, 2013 (Jordan Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Independent Elections Commission (IEC) is working to improve all election facilities and procedures for voters with disabilities, IEC Assistant Secretary General Badriya Bilbeisi told The Jordan Times on Sunday.
Bilbeisi noted in a phone interview that the commission is "working hard to encourage the participation of people with disabilities [PWD] in the elections".
They have also been a main target in the voter education activities, she added.
"All the banners, brochures and posters issued by the IEC for the elections had pictures of people with disabilities," as a message that these voters exist and have the right to vote, explained Bilbeisi, adding that even TV promotions concerning Wednesday's elections feature a sub-screen of the same messages in sign language.
This year, executive instructions governing voting and ballot counting have been amended to address loopholes in previous regulations, Bilbeisi said.
For example, PWD are not obliged to have a first-degree relative as an escort; they are free to pick whomever they like. The age of the escort is no longer a problem, she added.
There is only one condition for the escorts: They are not allowed to enter any voting centre more than once, and so each escort will have to dip one finger in ink as a sign that he/she has already entered a voting hall.
All these conditions have been put in place upon the demands of PWD, Bilbeisi said, and in line with international human rights organisation's criteria.
There are 226 voting centres across the Kingdom equipped and prepared for PWD to help them vote easily, she noted.
Volunteers are available at all centres to offer assistance to all voters but specifically to those who have any disability.
In each of these centres, a special film in sign language is screened to brief people with hearing disabilities on how to vote.
Halls are facilitated with ramps for people with physical disabilities.
All volunteers and observation committees have been trained to deal with voters with disabilities.
According to Haidar Majali, spokesperson of the Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disability (HCD), around 10 per cent of Jordanians have some kind of disability, with between 500,000 to 600,000 registered cases.
Both the IEC and HCD agreed that there will remain some lessons to be learnt and areas to be improved in future elections.
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