Are reasonable accommodations available to assist voters with disabilities in voting on their own and in secret in polling stations and public spaces?

Explanation

Reasonable accommodations enable all persons with disabilities to vote in situations where it would otherwise not be possible for them to vote, taking into account the needs of all people with physical, visual, hearing impairments and people with intellectual disabilities and learning difficulties.

In detail

Summary

35% of respondents stated there is legal duty to provide reasonable accommodation for people with particular disabilities or only for some elections, while 33.4% claimed there is a legal duty to provide such accommodations for all voters with disabilities. The major issues observed were:

  • Limited accommodations:  Technology and inaccessible infrastructures: No available braille ballots or sound system in electronic voting machines, or limited especially for blind, hard of hearing and people with intellectual disabilities
  • Training: Voting officers lack in training to assist PWDs
  • Legislations supporting accessible voting accommodations often lack in implementation strategies

Respondents also noted positive alternatives for voting procedures such as supportive laws promoting the implementation of accessible voting accommodation transportation of the ballot box from room to room to facilitate voting in hospitals and certain residential institutions, toll-free information line for those with a hearing impairment, sign-language DVD with open- and closed-captioning for people who are deaf or hard of hearing among others.

Comments

”The electoral law contains prerequisites for ensuring accessibility to polling stations (electoral code, article.  29), but there are not some Regulations/instructions to govern the criteria and standards of accessibility of polling stations /no evaluation standards sheets/accessibility checklist.  Although there are technical standards for the construction, in order to ensure the accessibility of persons with disabilities to social infrastructure, they have not been observed.” (Mester Vitalie, executive director, member of DPI, Centre of Legal Assistance for People with Disabilities, Moldova)

 

Blind voters can take assistant to cast their vote. But there is no braille ballots or no audible sound system in the electronic voting machine. When the polling center stated in multistoried buildings wheelchair users faced immense problem to cast their vote. Because there is no alternative voting system or office order to cast their votes from the ground floor. Even the officers of Polling stations are not trained on disability and their reasonable accommodation. (Salma Mahbub- Protibonhi Nagarik Shangathaner Parishad (PNSP), Bangladesh)

As the poll stations are accommodated in public spaces (usually schools), it depends whether they have gone through the process of renewing accessibility. In reality not all place have it. (Luule Sakkeus, Senior researcher, Estonian Institute for Population Studies, Tallinn Univeristy, Estonia)

CRPD Article

Article 29: participation in political and public life

“States Parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others, and shall undertake:

a) To ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected, inter alia, by:

  1. Ensuring that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use;
  2. Protecting the right of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot in elections and public referendums without intimidation, and to stand for elections, to effectively hold office and perform all public functions at all levels of government, facilitating the use of assistive and new technologies where appropriate;
  3. Guaranteeing the free expression of the will of persons with disabilities as electors and to this end, where necessary, at their request, allowing assistance in voting by a person of their own choice;

b) To promote actively an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public affairs, without discrimination and on an equal basis with others, and encourage their participation in public affairs, including:

  1. Participation in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country, and in the activities and administration of political parties;
  2. Forming and joining organizations of persons with disabilities to represent persons with disabilities at international, national, regional and local levels.”

(UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities)