Sightsavers stories

“People with disabilities are showing more interest in voting”

Senator Robert Oyono in his wheelchair in front of some steps.

Robert Oyono is Cameroon’s first senator with a disability and is from the Centre Region.

“There is a gradual increase in the number of people with disabilities who are showing more and more interest in voting. Beginning with the 2011 presidential election, there were about 8,000 people with disabilities who registered to vote, and by 2013 – after there had been a large campaign to engage people with disabilities in participating in political life – that number increased to about 35,000. And today [June 2018] we are talking about close to 45,000 people with disabilities whose names are on the voting registers.

“However, there are certain difficulties that people with disabilities face. The first one is access: looking at polling stations that don’t have ramps, for people with disabilities it becomes difficult. The second is in terms of having electoral materials in accessible formats.

“We are hoping that the body that is responsible for organising elections is able to have Braille ballot papers in order that those people with visual impairments are able to cast their votes.

“I’m the first person with a disability to be on the senate. This is a fairly new institution – it’s been around for just over six years.

“The authorities haven’t focused that much on the inclusion of people with disabilities in political action. I would say that the authorities have not had much interest as a result of ignorance. We know that people with disabilities have special needs and require additional support. And so that’s why it’s important that there should be provisions in the law – in terms of effective application of existing laws and the political participation of people with disabilities.”

Irish Aid logoIn Cameroon people with disabilities are legally entitled to vote. Yet many of those who want to participate in choosing their political representatives find they are unable to exercise this right, excluded by a series of obstacles both practical and social. Since 2011, with funding support from Irish Aid, Sightsavers has been working with a number of organisations, including Cameroon’s official election body, to raise awareness of this situation, and to support people with disabilities in engaging with the democratic process in their country.

Learn how we’re campaigning for disability rights

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