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NGO bats for PWD-inclusive elections

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - A bigger percentage from the sector of the people with disabilities (PWDs) will be given a higher chance to participate in the forthcoming midterm elections as a campaign by an Australian non-government organization continues to promote disability-inclusive polls, an official said.

This comes as The Asia Foundation launched here its Fully Abled Nation (FAN) program to help the PWDs participate more meaningfully in the electoral process.

The Asia Foundation, supported by the Australian Agency for Internal Development (AusAID), and in partnership with the Commission on Election (Comelec) and the Disabled Persons Organization (DPOs) staged the FAN as part of its road show in the country that will strengthen the PWDs' rights in the election.

A whole day workshop in Centro Pastoral was given to participants, including PWDs, local government officials and concerned agencies coming from the region, who went through disability sensitivity seminar and other programs aimed at making the voting process more convenient and attuned to the needs of the disabled members of the society.

“The program is to promote disability-inclusive election and we are hoping this will encourage more public support,” said Criselle Capistrano, managing director of Foundation for Communication Initiatives, Inc. (FOCI).

Capistrano said they have been coordinating with various local government units to allocate in their programs platforms that will help the PWDs in their participation to the election.

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She said they were also working with the Comelec to institutionalize a resolution that will make all polling places more accessible to the disabled persons.

“Hopefully, these projects will raise awareness also to the fully abled persons to be more sensitive on the PWDs,” Capistrano added.

Maribel Buenaobra, director for programs of The Asia Foundation, observed that there are still more “road blocks” in terms of accessibility for the PWDs to the voting centers.

She identified some polling centers of having no ramps while elections supervisors and assistance are also not ready or not capable of handling PWDs assistance.

“In most cases, elections assistance or supervisors are not ready. This is the first time in empowering them to establish the needed assistance desk for PWDs,” Buenaobra said.

Buenaobra said they are expecting the number of PWD voters to reach 400,000 based on last year’s voters’ registration data.

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