Many disabled people have been seen casting their vote in the referendum – Press photo Many disabled people have been seen casting their vote in the referendum – Press photo

Disabled people vote in referendum on constitutional amendments

Mon, Apr. 22, 2019
CAIRO – 22 April 2019: Many disabled people were seen casting their votes in the referendum on constitutional amendments, which if approved, will significantly expand the president's authority and extend presidential terms to six years instead of four.

Monday, April 22 is the last day Egyptians can cast their votes.

Ashraf Sobhi, the minister of youth, said that the participation of the disabled people in the referendum reflects the ministry's success to reach and integrate them into the society.

On the first day of the referendum on constitutional amendments, the National Council for Disability Affairs said it had received 70 inquiries from disabled people about the referendum until the polling stations closed at 9 p.m. on Saturday.

This referendum witnesses the first printing of ballot papers using Braille writing system, which uses embossed paper designed to allow visually impaired people to read. The Braille ballot papers will allow blind citizens to practice their constitutional right and vote in the referendum unassisted.

Braille allows blind people and those who have low vision to read documents through touching raised dots representing the letters of alphabet.

According to Article 244 of the Constitution and according to the amendment proposed, the State shall ensure that the youth, Christians, persons with disabilities and Egyptians residing abroad are represented in an appropriate manner, as specified by law.

While before the amendment, the article stipulated that these sectors shall be represented appropriately in the first parliament elected after this constitution comes into effect, as specified by law.

Polling stations nationwide have started to receive voters inside Egypt on Saturday to cast their ballots in the referendum, over three consecutive days, while expats have been allowed to vote since Friday, according to each country's local time. The referendum is held under full judicial supervision with the participation of 19,339 judges.

What the state did for the disabled

In January, Egyptian Parliament gave a final approval on a draft law submitted by the government to establish the National Council for People with Disabilities, away from the National Council for Disabled Affairs (NCDA).

According to the draft law, the new Disabilities Council is an independent body that aims to promote, develop and protect the rights of persons with disabilities and their constitutional dignity.

The council shall enjoy technical, financial and administrative independence in performing its activities, functions and competences.

Concerning administration, the council shall consist of a president, a vice-president and 17 members with disabilities in addition to public figures with experience.

The formation decree shall be issued by Egypt's president based on the decision of the majority of members of the Parliament within three months from the date of promulgation of the law.

In December, Egypt's President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi allocated LE 80 million ($4.46 million) of the Tahya Misr Fund in support of people with special needs.

The president made the announcement while attending a celebration marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. "People with special needs in Egypt represent 9-10 percent of the total population", Sisi said.

In July 2018, President Sisi announced establishing a technical center for services for disabled persons, to be the first of its kind in Africa. The center will enable people with hearing or speech related disability to use technology to communicate through mobile phones.

During the inauguration of the seventh International Conference on Information Technology Convergence and Services for People with Disabilities (ICT4PwDs), Sisi also announced establishing an initiative that aims to enable disabled people to get services and information introduced by online websites of governmental institutions.

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