Monday, May 29, 2017
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The Disabilities Association of Timor-Leste (ADTL) has called on the government to create better infrastructure to ensure people with disabilities are able to take part in this year’s general election as is their right.

ADTL Executive Director Joao Pequino said the lower rate of participation among disabled people in previous elections was due to the lack of accessibility and adequate information.

ADTL Executive Director Joao Pequino said the lower rate of participation among disabled people in previous elections was due to the lack of accessibility and adequate information.

Although disabled people did not request special treatment, he said the government should create adequate conditions for them to participate in the democratic process.

“Those who are blind cannot vote because they cannot read the voting ballot which is printed, those who are deaf do not understand the information because the national media doesn’t use sign language, particularly National Television (TVTL) –and those that use wheelchairs cannot access voting centers as there are no ramps,” he said at a national seminar to discuss the participation of people with disabilities in the 2017 election.

“The government should consider this issue and make good preparations so that they also can participate in the election.”

According to data from the 2015 population census, there are more than 32,000 disabled people over 17 years of age in Timor-Leste who have a right to vote in the next general election.

Disability representative Cesario da Silva said although the constitution guaranteed the right of people with disabilities to participate in all aspects of society, in reality they had been isolated by the government.

“The government should print ballot papers in brail so blind people can read them, and this can respond to their concerns,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Director of National Election Commission (CNE), Deolindo Ramos, acknowledged that people with disabilities had experienced difficulties in voting in previous elections.

“We used schools as voting centers and some did not have wheelchair access, so that was difficult for those who used wheelchairs to participate in the election, and another thing was that we did not have special voting ballots printed for those who were blind,” he said.

Therefore, he said it was important to raise these concerns with politicians to try and eliminate such obstacles in the future.

He said the commission was working with NGOs in the disability sector to raise awareness about the issue and because, for example, people who were deaf needed someone with sign language skills so they could understand the process.

ADTL also ran a one-day training course aimed at educating the government about the importance of creating adequate conditions for disabled people so that they could participate in the electoral process.

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