Johannesburg - A survey conducted by the Southern African Institute of Business Accountants (SAIBA) has found that some voting stations in certain parts of the country did not have proper access for people living with a disability.
The institute believes the lack of adequate accessible voting stations could have prevented a high number of disabled people from visiting voting stations on May 8 and casting their vote.
The institute’s primary focus is ensuring the verification of financial statements and this year it decided to send out a team of 45 observers to various voting stations across the country to observe whether they were accessible for disabled people.
There are 3 million disabled South Africans.
SAIBA CEO Nicolaas van Wyk said observers were issued with a questionnaire which used international standards for accessing accessibility of areas for disabled persons.
“We developed a questionnaire based on international standards on what is acceptable. We trained our members on using this checklist and we sent them out into the field. Their findings were revealing. Not all the polling stations were adequately equipped,” van Wyk said.
He said not all voting stations were adequately equipped for full access. Some of the issues encountered included voting booths that were too high for easy access for people in wheelchairs.
“We observed quite a lot of lapses that we feel should be corrected in future. Most of the polling booths did not have good access for the disabled, people in wheelchairs could not access the voting stations. There were no lower tables for people on wheelchairs to be able to cast a vote. The booth was too high for them,” he said.
“One of the voting stations was inside a basement, no disabled person could access that polling station unless they were aided. This is a problem that should be addressed.”
Van Wyk said another group of people who could possibly be unable to exercise their democratic right were people who were hospitalised and unable to leave. He said more should be done to reach out to those individuals on election day or the two days set aside for special voting.
Van Wyk said the institute will share its results with the IEC with the hope that future elections will be more accessible for disabled people.
The IEC sets aside two days for special voting which usually includes people who will not be able to vote on election day, but also for those unable to travel to voting stations. IEC officials have been tasked with visiting some of these individuals at their homes. Van Wyk said this was not enough especially for people living with disabilities who would like to enjoy the experience of travelling to a voting station and casting a vote.IOL