CAIRO: Wheel chairs, social assistants and polling stations on ground floors are among “positive” features spotted by people with disabilities during parliament elections, according to interviews conducted by The Cairo Post Monday.
It is not the first time for Sayed Farag, a man with physical disability living in Upper Egypt’s governorate of Asyut, to cast his vote in elections. His experience with the process enabled him to compare this time’s voting with previous ones.
“There is a remarkable improvement and care with people with disabilities in terms of accessibility at polling stations,” Farag, 34, told The Cairo Post.
In the past, Farag said that “there was a lack of informative and physical accessibility, where we could not be independent and always needed help from others.”
“The international law guaranteed our right in political participation,” he said, adding that these new facilities would help them to achieve this right.
The National Council for People with Disabilities’ Affairs reported that around 90% of the polling stations in 14 governorates have provided “terms of accessibility” for voters with special needs.
Farag witnessed wheel chairs situated outside most of the polling stations in his home town of Manfalout. “Although they were used by the elderly as well, their provision has helped people with disabilities a lot in terms of transfer inside the polling station.”
He said the turnout of eligible voters with disabilities in his home town was “moderate,” estimating that approximately half of them (around 600) had cast their votes thus far.
Many voters with special needs are “hesitant” to head to polling stations due to the history of lack of facilities enabling them to vote as a normal people, said Farag.
He added that the lack of “awareness campaigns about elections in the media” is another reason for their low turn out.
People with disabilities will be represented for the first time in this parliament, with at least eight candidates included on electoral lists.
Farag said he voted Sunday for the “For The Love Of Egypt” electoral list, because “I know the person representing us is aware of our case.”
He, however, said that most of the candidates “only contacted us to guarantee our votes.”
Dalia Atef, a woman with physical disability, agreed with Farag saying that “one of the reasons of reluctance of voters, not only with disabilities, but all Egyptians is that people did not know the candidates.”
“People with disabilities were marginalized from political parties and coalitions, which randomly chose our representatives not based on the capabilities,” she told The Cairo Post.
She also witnessed positive new features like using an audio program at some polling stations to help blind voters with voting instructions.
“The complaints I heard from people who cast their votes do not exceed 1.5 percent, which proves there is remarkable improvement in these elections,” Atef said.
Policemen were assigned to help voters with special needs enter and exit the polling stations, and sometimes, a judge met persons with disabilities to present them their ballot. Atef said that making polling stations on ground floors has helped a number of people; in the past, “People with disabilities were carried by others to their stations, which was very humiliating.”
In its statement Sunday, the council urged all voters with disabilities to head to polling stations and cast their vote to “participate in making Egypt’s future.”