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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Liberia Voter Registration Lacks Accessibility for Deaf, Advocates Say

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Deaf advocates in Liberia have criticized the Liberian government and National Elections Commission (NEC) for failing to make the voter registration and election process accessible for deaf Liberians.

They specifically cited the lack of sign-language interpreters available during the voter registration process as a significant barrier in deaf citizens casting their vote. Without sign language interpreters, deaf Liberians, includng rural Liberians who may not be literate, cannot understand the registration process and what voter ID cards say.

“It is unacceptable that the government and the NEC have neglected the needs of the deaf community,” said Abdullah Tani Konateh, a Deaf Advocate at Liberia National Association of the Deaf. “Deaf people are Liberian citizens and have the same rights as every other citizen to participate in the democratic process. The failure to provide sign language interpreters
during the voter registration process is a violation of their rights.”

Konateh called for the government to enhance its inclusion efforts to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities, such as the right to vote, are protected alongside other Liberians. He proposed four ways that the government and campaign organizers could improve their accessibility efforts: providing sign-language interpretations, distributing written materials, conducting outreach events with the deaf community, and partnering with deaf organizations to boost civic engagement.

“Promoting social inclusion for deaf people is essential for a democratic society,” Konateh said. “By ensuring that deaf people have access to information and services, they can participate in the political process and have their voices heard.”

JP Leskovich | U. Pittsburgh School of Law, US

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