Inclusion of the Visually Impaired Persons in the Electoral Process in Zambia: A Human Rights Approach

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

The purpose of this study was to assess the electoral process and the visually impaired so as to determine their inclusion in the electoral process. The objectives were to, establish the electoral needs of people with visual impairment in Zambia, to determ ine how people with visual impairment have been embraced in the electoral process, to examine the barriers that have contributed to the non

participation of people with visual impairment in the electoral process and finally to ascertain how the electoral p rocess can be made more inclusive for individuals with visual impairment. The study employed a phenomenological research design. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used to collect and analyse data. A purposive sampling technique was employed. The key informants were officials from the ECZ, the Zambia Agency for perso ns with disabilities and selected individuals with visual impairments, Jesuit center for theological reflections official, selected students with visual impairments at Kwame Nkrumah University and selected lectures and individuals with visual impairments i n kabwe District of Zambia. Data was collected through Questionnaires , interviews and focus group discussions and observation. The findings from this study revealed that d espite the fact that the legal framework in Zambia provides for the conduct of electi ons by means of a secret ballot, the practice has been that the visually impaired voters are subjected to the assistance of a third party that is required to mark the ballot paper on their behalf, despite the braille jack et which was used in the 2016 elect ions by some visually impaired persons by slotting in a ballot paper and be able to identify a candidate of their choice, by no means was that used by the visually impaired who are illiterate because braille is as good as reading and writing of which the uneducated visually impaired will still need assistance to vote, hence the study further revealed that, the visually impaired ,both total and partially blind need braille jackets across the country, large font ballot paper and most of all effi ci ent and eff ective sensitation at all levels of the electoral process in all local languages . The study recommends that a law that restricts fundamental human rights must be shown to be reasonably justified in a democratic society and must be cross

cutting also and no t be discriminatory in its effect or application. In this regard, there is need to adopt alternative voting and participation mechanisms that will allow both partially and totally visually impaired voters to vote independently and exercise the right to a secret ballot and fully participa te at all levels of
the electoral process. These uncertainties, therefore, call for an extensive sensitisation on the part of the organisations directly dealing with the disabled persons and stakeholders regarding the purp ose and importance of participation in the electoral process hence enhancing the visually impaired persons’s inclusion in the entire electoral process in Zambia. // Paper ID 10

Human Rights,Governance,Social Inclusion,Disabilities