Jonathan Conteh, the executive director of Vision for the Blind, has told Awoko that they have held talks with the National Electoral Commission (NEC) for them to have tactile ballot guides for the August 11 elections.
The tactile system, the executive director says, “would help blind people vote independently so that we too can enjoy our right to secrecy.”
He continues: “as at now I’m happy to say that NEC has approved and we have formed the tactile national task force, and we are trying to go out now to see how we can get funding because [there are a] lot of other things around it which include sensitization, workshop, training and mock elections. So we need a lot of funding for that.”
For all this work, Mr Conteh explains that they have already approached the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and IFES who are willing to join them in this venture but that they are also looking forward to other organizations for help.
Urging politicians, Jonathan Conteh states that, “you never can tell that one blind man’s vote can make you win. So we are looking forward to see all of these people [politicians] come on board to support this move.”
In 2002, he goes on, the tactile system was tried on a pilot case “but it appeared that it was just within Freetown, Bo and Makeni. But this time round, we want to go into all the other constituencies in the country.”
Talking about the tactile system, Jonathan Conteh explains that “it’s a kind of guide that has some holes around it for a blind to feel and know where to tick”.
“It is made in such a way that if it’s ten or fifteen parties in your country they are all arranged by numbers so you will know where the different parties are placed. It is not much of a brail, it’s like the cutout they do in stencil work, and this can be used even by the uneducated blind. It just only by knowing the position,” he concludes.