Handicapped voters facing obstacles at Lebanon polling stations

The Daily Star

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Handicapped voters in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley and Baalbek-Hermel taking part in Sunday's local elections faced difficulties in reaching voting booths, with the interior minister admitting that polling stations were not prepared to receive them.

"We should have been more prepared for this matter," Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk told reporters after casting his ballot at a polling station in Beirut.

Police were photographed either carrying or helping disabled people move up and down stairs at polling stations, many of which had no elevators, to reach rooms where voting booths are located.

Amal Sherif, a candidate running with the Beirut Madinati (Beirut is my City) list, criticized the state for failing to better accommodate the handicapped.

Sherif, who requires a cane to walk, said she struggled to climb up a number of levels to reach the voting booth. She said it wasn't until after she finished voting that they began operating the elevators.

She criticized the police at the station for running the elevators late despite seeing her struggle.

The "Haqi", or "My Right" campaign which advocates for rights for the handicapped, announced in a statement later Sunday that around 100 of its monitors and volunteers were present on the ground to help people with disabilities cast their votes.

It complained of a number of obstacles and problems which haven't been addressed, which in turn obstruct the arrival of certain individuals to voting booths. My Right said many handicapped people were seen being carried in and out of their wheelchairs, and criticized the absence of processing for blind voters and the low turnout of the latter.

The NGO held the Interior Ministry responsible and has called on authorities to address the issues to protect the safety and integrity of handicapped people ahead of the next phases of the municipal elections set for later this month.

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