Campaigners bemoan end of tactile voting

From Global development | The Guardian Fri Nov 16 2012, 07:00:02

Disability rights have taken a step back, with Sierra Leone also failing to include deaf and immobile people in election planning

The National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone has scrapped a pioneering tactile voting system for blind and visually impaired people just days ahead of the national elections on Saturday.

Disability rights activists have accused the NEC of denying visually impaired people the right to vote independently and in secret by dropping the tactile system that enabled them to vote unassisted. They say the U-turn makes a mockery of public statements of support for disabled citizens made by presidential candidates and marks a significant step backwards in the progress of disability rights.

The system was piloted in Sierra Leone's regional capitals during the 2002 elections - the first use of a tactile ballot paper in Africa. Designed by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and Action on Disability and Development - and funded by the UK's Department for International Development and its American counterpart, USAid - it was rolled out during the 2007 elections. The introduction of the system was accompanied by a national programme to train people how to use it.

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