Many registered disabled voters could not cast their vote in Sunday’s election as there was no access for wheelchairs in polling stations all over the country.

Reports from citizens came from all over Lebanon that voters in wheelchairs were unable to vote at polling stations as provisions had not been made to accommodate them.

There are approximately 68,000 Lebanese voters registered as disabled with the Ministry of Social Affairs, but with most polling stations held in buildings unsuitable for wheelchairs many could not reach the polling booths.

Voting access caused problems for people at a station in Mount Lebanon, with one voter reporting “[There was] no passway for handicapped voters. Where I voted, it was hard even for old people to reach the voting booths.”

In Jdeydeh too there were reports that it was almost impossible to access the booths in the town’s polling stations.

One voter from Tarik Jdideh said that there were no facilities provided for the disabled, however, one man on a wheelchair was carried up three levels of stairs in order to cast his vote.

At a polling station in Beirut’s district III, the army was on hand to help some of the older voters but for Mustapha, 56, who has been wheelchair-bound since 2004 after losing the use of his legs in a car accident, it proved more difficult.

“As soon as I approached the building and saw the crowds I knew it was going to be physically impossible for me to get past.

“It is so ridiculous that even now there are little provisions made for people in wheelchairs and it is outrageous that I feel as though I have lost my right to vote because of it. This is the 21st Century and something really should be done.”

With the polling station on the 2nd floor and with no accessibility ramps or wide enough entrances, Mustapha could not cast his vote in the country’s crucial parliamentary elections.

An official at the polling station said: “It is difficult to get up the stairs, but we would try to help if it was needed.”

The Lebanese government recently issued a decree that was to provide access to polls for the disabled and allowing assistance to be given in the voting process. This is the first decree of its kind in Lebanon.

The decree included a critieria for polling stations:They must have parking lots, entrances, corridors, wheelchair ramps, elevators, toilets and voting halls big enough to install curtained booths to ensure privacy.

However, the Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union, sponsored by the International Foundation for Election Systems, conducted a study of the 1,741 polling stations in Lebanon and assessed them according to the ministry’s six accessibility criteria. The results revealed that only six polling stations – less that half of 1% – out of 1,741 satisfied all the accessibility criteria.

 

 

 

 

 

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