A woman with intellectual disabilities places her voting paper in the voting box during a drill

Today we begin a multi-part blog where we introduce you to our awardee projects that will be presented at the 2019 Zero Project Conference. We’ll also explore the themes that connect them.

Possibly the largest aspect of political participation for most people is elections, and as such this was a key topic for our research this year. Many projects, both from governments and NGOs are working to improve access to elections for persons with various disabilities.

Accessible elections

Around the world, projects are increasing general access to voting such as Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court’s “Electoral Justice Accessibility Programme” which moves polling stations to accessible buildings, provides staff that can communicate in sign-language and provides electronic voting machines. In Canada, Elections Saskatchewan’s Accessibility Implementation Plan improves homebound voting and improved polling station access, while in Mexico, Instituto Nacional Electoral’s national protocol improves access to polling stations, provides electoral material that promotes Braille ballots and provides sign language at public debates.

A ballot paper overlayed with a sleeve with holes next to Braille numbers

A Braille ballot sleeve in Saskatchewan

Paraguay Electoral Tribunal are improving accessing to elections after endorsing a number of recommendations from USAID and Fundación Saraki, including absentee ballots, plus braille and sign language voting information to improve access to voting. Finally, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in the United States has developed a free-to-download election access observation toolkit which for organisations around the world to observe and collect data on access to electoral processes.

The parallel session on accessible elections takes place on day 2 (21st February) of the Zero Project Conference 2019 in the main room M1 at 14:35 CET.

Inclusive voter information

Information to help persons with disabilities understand the voting process and to choose who they wish to vote for is being made more accessible in some very innovative ways. In Spain, Plena Inclusión runs an awareness raising campaign to encourage those with intellectual disability to use their vote, while in Australia, Inclusion Melbourne is supporting participation through easy-language materials and online campaign information. Similarly, ENABLE Scotland and the UK Electoral Commission are providing easy-read voting guides while also providing accessible hustings. Finally, Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan run group-study opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities to learn about Swedish politics using easy-read material.

A young lady and a young man study voting guides while sat at a table

Voters studying easy-read voting guides in Scotland

The parallel session on inclusive voter information takes place on day 2 (21st February) of the Zero Project Conference 2019 in the main room M1 at 10:55 CET.

Online voting systems and tactile ballots

Alternatives to traditional voting systems are being implemented around the world to allow persons with different disabilities to vote, such as online ballots OmniBallot from Seattle-based Democracy Live which enables voting via computer, tablet or smartphone. Similarly, iVote from Barcelona-based Scytl enables Blind voters to vote via their smartphone in Western Australia.

A young man with a physica disability sat at a desk touching the computer screen

A man using an online touch-sccreen voting system from Democracy Live

An alternative for Blind voters is the use of tactile ballot papers, such as those from Boğaziçi University and the Association of Barrier Free Access in Turkey which allows voting for both those who can or cannot read Braille. In Georgia, the Central Election Commission has created tactile ballot guides which fit over standard ballot papers for Bind voters.

The parallel sessions on online voting systems and tactile ballots take place on day 2 (21st February) of the Zero Project Conference 2019 in room M3 at 16:25 and 17:15 CET respectively.