KUALA LUMPUR, June 4 — Accessibility for persons with disabilities (OKU) must be improved to let members of the community make informed choices in elections, electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 said at a forum today.
Bersih 2.0 acting executive director Ngeow Chow Ying said not enough political parties and media not provide accessibility features such as “easy reading” documents catering to OKU, sign language interpreters, and other platforms for the group to obtain critical information to guide their voting.
“There is almost none or too little information regarding the candidates and parties contesting in the election.
“The OKUs did not want to rely too much on their families and their friends to translate and communicate what’s in front of them,” she said during her presentation at a hotel here today.
Autism activist Mohd Shafiq Badarulhisham said Malaysia in general lagged in catering to the communications and information needs of those with disabilities such as dyslexia and sensory sensitivities.
He said election authorities in countries such as the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand would provide accessible and easy-to-read documents to provide OKU voters in those countries with relevant information on elections, along with other concessions.
“Typically, there are some countries that allow such groups to vote early either by postal voting and earlier than on the actual polling day.
“Dimensions UK, a registered non-profit organisation, has undertaken an initiative where the Love Your Vote campaign for the involvement of the disabled with learning disabilities in the political arena as well as ways for voters,” he said during a panel discussion afterwards.
For Johor associations for the blind deputy chairman Muhamad Nadhir Abdul Nasir, the Election Commission and political parties should upgrade their websites and mobile apps for the blind to check up their statuses.
He said currently blind readers could not differentiate between buttons on the mobile and web apps and he hoped that both will be upgraded to comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
“The EC could also consult our experts from the blind associations on WCAG. And political parties should publish their manifesto with more accessible communications.
“When campaigning using Facebook and Twitter it would be better to use alt-text for the photos and posters so we would know what they wanted to offer,” he said.
About 50 people from various OKU and activist groups attended the event today, and drafted their demands to the government.
Deputy Minister for Entrepreneur Development and Cooperative Datuk Mas Ermieyati Shamsuddin, who was also present in the event, pledged to bring the demands to the government for further discussion.
“I am looking forward to hearing the suggestions and will bring it forward,” she said.