Laws must change to allow disabled persons to vote independently – GECOM
Persons with disabilities are calling for systems to be put in place which will allow them to vote independently but the Guyana Elections Commission said the laws need to change to allow for this to happen.
At the launch of a voters education campaign for persons with disabilities on Thursday at the National Library, Programme Coordinator of the Guyana Council of Organisation for Persons (GCOPD), Ganesh Singh said this group of persons need equal access as it relates to voting.
“All persons with disabilities, all we want is to live independent lives…we should have access to the polling stations and vote independently. I am sure with continued advocacy, that will happen for the next elections because we know it’s not going to happen this time around,” he noted.
The recommendations were previously made to GECOM.
However, Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission Justice (rt’d) Claudette Singh on said for this to be done, the laws governing the voting process need to change.
She referred to the Representation of the People’s Act which mandates the right to vote by proxy for persons who are unable to vote due to blindness or other physical incapacities.
“Presently, there is no provision in our legislation for persons with disabilities to vote with braille. The Representation of the People’s Act chapter 1:03 does not make provision to enable a person who is blind or physically incapacitated, to vote independently,” the Chairperson said at the launch.
Justice Singh said “while GECOM is sympathetic to these complaints, there is need to have the necessary legislation implemented.”
She noted that the Constitution of Guyana stipulates that legislative and other measures must be taken to protect disadvantaged persons and persons with disabilities to promote equality.
The Chairperson said in its voters’ education campaign, GECOM has made provisions for persons with disabilities by ensuring sign language is on all of its broadcast pieces and its brochures are available in audio form.
She commended the Guyana Society for the Blind which played a major part in the campaign launched on Thursday.
United States Ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch also joined the call for specific provisions for disabled persons. Included in her recommendations is the need for ramps and slip-resistant surfaces for persons in wheelchairs.
Majority of the public buildings in Guyana are without ramps or surfaces to make it easier for disabled persons to independently get things done.