The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has promised the National Commission of Disability (NCD) to ensure that persons with disabilities are not discriminated against at general and regional elections widely expected to be held during the second quarter of this year.
“GECOM recognizes that all registered electors have equal rights to vote regardless of whether or not they are disabled. Consequently, GECOM has promised the NCD that on Election Day persons with disabilities can expect to be treated respectfully and fairly, and will be given all the assistance they need from the polling day staff present at polling places on Election Day,” the elections management agency said in a statement.
GECOM said representatives from both organisations met on Wednesday, January 8 to discuss a number of issues pertaining to the differently abled and their activities before and during Elections Day.
The meeting explored means of effectively facilitating persons living with disabilities on Election Day. In so doing, both entities sought to identify and reduce barriers encountered when registering and voting at elections.
Wednesday’s meeting was a follow up to a previous one held in 2014 as the NCD continues to assess the current status of preparation by GECOM to accommodate the differently abled during registration and on Election Day.
GECOM added that training exercises are ongoing with polling day staff, and is making serious efforts to have polling day staff who are well-trained to take care of the needs of all voters, including the differently abled. For example, for the visually impaired GECOM has given the undertaking to put into use a specially structured template to be placed over the ballot paper as an instrument which would assist the elector in marking his/her ballot for the Party of his/her choice.
With respect to electors with impaired hearing, GECOM said iyt hopes to implement audio visual electronic advertisements and notices which will include demonstrations by a sign language translator. The latter will be made available by the NCD.
All new GECOM buildings are equipped with ramps for persons with physical disabilities, especially those who are wheelchair bound, in keeping with the Disability Act. GECOM is also exploring the possibility of having special arrangements in place at selected polling places for electors using wheelchairs. Furthermore, all persons who are differently abled will be given priority access at polling stations.
Representing the NCD was its Chairman, Ms. Evelyn Hamilton, Vice Chairman, Mr. Vidushi Persaud, Commissioner, Ganesh Singh, and Executive Secretary, Beverly Pile. GECOM was represented by its Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally, Chief Election Officer, Mr. Keith Lowenfield, Deputy Chief Election Officer, Mr. Vishnu Persaud and the Legal Officer, Ms. Juanita Barker.