In the past, the blind and visually impaired weren't able to vote independently and privately in Nigeria, even though equal access to the electoral process is the right of all citizens. The process makes it such that a sighted person has to read their ballot and make the selections for them, and we shouldn't have to explain why that is flawed.
Approximately 4.25 million Nigerians are blind or visually impaired, and nearly 15% of the population live with some form of disability. Therefore it makes sense that INEC has finally launched a braille ballot guide, estimated to have cost the country at least $100,000 (NGN 36,300,000).
This Braille guide was piloted at the Osun and Ekiti state gubernatorial elections, and is now being rolled our across the country. This will allow visually impaired voters to enjoy the secrecy of their voting choice, in time for the national elections.
INEC also announced that other people living with various disabilities will be allowed to go to the polling booths with their guides during the elections.
They will also be deploying wheelchairs for ease of movement and magnifying glasses for people with low vision – which was piloted during the Anambra state elections.
While this is impressive, there's still a long way to go, as we don't know whether these braille guides will be available at all polling units across the country.
With that being said, this is a huge step towards inclusivity and participation for everyone during the elections, and is ultimately significant advancement for Nigeria’s participatory democracy!