Liberians began queuing as early as 5:00 a.m., patiently waiting until 8:00 a.m., the official commencement time for polling, but the National Elections Commission didn’t consider people with hearing impairments.
John McCauley, a journalist with SATEC-Liberia, raised a concern as to whether the National Elections Commission (NEC) was considering the deployment of sign language interpreters for the October 10 poll, tagging different institutions and individuals of concern. See the full text here.
The post caught our attention, and we decided to seek an answer to the inquiry raised by the journalist, considering the vulnerability and challenges people with disabilities face.
The population census performed in Liberia in 2008 found that people living with disabilities (PWD) represent 14% of the country’s total population. This number has increased massively over the last 13 years since the 2023 census was conducted; there is no available data.
The NEC chairperson, Davidette Browne Lansanah, said there would not be visibility of sound language interpreters throughout the 5890 polling places and 2080 precincts.
Responding to the question about the employment of sign-language interpreters to assist persons with hearing impairments, Brown-Lansanah said the NEC cannot guarantee that such will occur due to its cost-intensive nature.
The NEC’s biometric voter registration drive this year registered 12,399 people with disabilities out of the total 247161 registrants, and a 2008 Housing Population Survey found 14 per cent were disabled. However, these individuals would be at the mercy of the system. Over 2,080 precincts now have accessibility difficulties for those with disabilities.
Despite working with people with disabilities through its gender section to examine how they may be accommodated into the process, Brown noted that the commission did not budget for employing sign language interpreters for the upcoming October 10th elections.
In recent months, there has been progress made in the inclusion of sign language interpreters with visibility at every public gathering to ensure people of hearing in attendance feel a part of the events and understand the information thereof.
Samuel Dean weighs in:
Samuel Dean is a physically challenged man contesting the Montserrado District eight seat. He says he is running to improve the lives of his fellow Persons living With Disabilities(PWDs). Dean does not support the deployment of sign language interpreters at the various precincts on October 10, 2023, due to fear that those minority groups’ decisions might be tempered.
“I believe that it’s wrong and a travesty of justice. It leaves room for sinister sign language interpreters to interfere with their votes.