Enabling the disabled to vote

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial , Wednesday 20 Apr 2022

PERSONS with disabilities are often denied the right to vote because polling stations are not customised to suit their needs. Accordingly, on 14 April, the Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine Al-Qabbag signed a protocol with the Acting President of the National Elections Commission (NEC) Ahmed Abdel-Azim Matar to adopt measures facilitating the participation of people with special needs in the electoral process.

Enabling the disabled to vote
Enabling the disabled to vote


The protocol included updating the database of people with special needs to make sure that polling stations are equipped in a way that can accommodate their needs.

“There are suggestions to provide people who have vision problems with Braille sheets by which they can select their candidates,” Salah Hashem, adviser to the social solidarity minister for social policies, said. “Further recommendations include benefiting from the sign language dictionary launched in 2020 for deaf and dumb voters. Ushers at ballot stations could also use the dictionary to guide voters with such disabilities.”

The number of wheelchairs will be increased at all polling stations in order to facilitate mobility for the disabled as well as the elderly. “Currently there is a maximum of one or two wheelchairs at each station which is not sufficient,” Hashem said.

According to the latest statistics issued by the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), in 2020 there were more than 20 million Egyptians with special needs, with 76.5 per cent suffering minor disability problems, while 18.9 per cent suffered from disabilities which prevents them from practising life’s normal daily activities; 4.5 per cent are completely disabled.

Hashem noted that there are no policies, laws or legislation binding the inclusion of those with special needs in the decision-making processes except for Article 244 of the 2014 constitution. “The state shall endeavour that youth, Christians, persons with disability and Egyptians living abroad be appropriately represented in the first House of Representatives to be elected after this constitution is approved, as regulated by law,” the article states.

Many people with special needs are unaware of the importance of their participation in the decision-making process. Therefore, campaigns will be launched to increase their awareness in this regard, according to Hashem.

The concept of disability has evolved over the years in a way that now emphasises the values of social equality and human rights. The Ministry of Social Solidarity along with the NEC will play a major role in raising awareness among public authorities on the rights of persons with disabilities. It can continue to do so through the further development of consultation mechanisms at all levels of government. “It is also essential that persons with disabilities themselves, particularly those with more severe impairments, are aware of the right to vote and to participate in political life,” Hashem said.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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