Inclusion of the Visually impaired Persons in the Electoral Process in Zambia: A Human Rights Approach
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 determine 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 process 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 persons 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 in kabwe District of Zambia. Data was collected through Questionnaires, interviews and focus group discussions and observation. The findings from this study revealed that despite the fact that the legal framework in Zambia provides for the conduct of elections 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 jacket which was used in the 2016 elections 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 efficient and effective 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 not 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 participate 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 purpose 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
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