Inclusive political participation

International law recognises the rights of all citizens to take part in the conduct of public affairs, to vote and be elected, and to have access to public service. This is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and numerous subsequent international conventions. These rights are recognised as fundamental and lie at the heart of democracy. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognises that these rights apply equally to people with disabilities.

Article 29 of the CRPD outlines the rights of people with disabilities in their participation in political and public life. It requires that people with disabilities are guaranteed political rights and that appropriate measures are adopted to ensure that they enjoy these rights on an equal basis with others. These rights are essential for ensuring equality of opportunity for people with disabilities and their full and effective political participation and inclusion in society. Through exercising these rights, people with disabilities can assert their individual independence, which includes the freedom to make their own choices, vote and the right to be recognized as people before the law.

This key list presents information about the inclusive political participation of people with disabilities. The resources feature general information, as well as regional and national case studies along with news articles that highlight good practices and barriers to political rights. It was reviewed in collaboration with The International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

We welcome your suggestions: please send comments or suggested additions to sourceassistant@hi-uk.org.

International Foundation for Electoral Systems

Selected resources

General resources

ADA checklist for polling places

DISABILITY RIGHTS SECTION, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION
February 2004

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"The following checklist is designed to help voting officials determine whether a polling place has basic accessible features needed by most voters with disabilities. It may be used when evaluating the accessibility of potential new polling places and when identifying physical barriers in existing polling places before temporary or permanent modifications are made to improve accessibility for elections"
Note: Available in html and pdf versions from the link provided

Article29.org

ARTICLE29.ORG

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This website gives an introduction to the CRPD and Article 29 and provides links to related documents by country

Chapter 3 : the right to participation in political and public life

LORD, Janet E,
DEFRANCO, Allison
2012

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This chapter focuses on Article 29 of the CRPD and the participation of people with disabilities in political and public life. It highlights the barriers faced by people with disabilities and provides recommendations for ways to increase participation
Chapter 3 from "Human rights. Yes! : action and advocacy on the rights of persons with disabilities" by LORD, Janet E and DEFRANCO, Allison

ElectionAccess.org

INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR ELECTORAL SYSTEMS (IFES)

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This accessible website is a free resource solely dedicated to the global political rights of persons with disabilities. It serves as an online clearinghouse dedicated to showcasing laws and tools associated with political participation by persons with disabilities.  It features information for disability rights advocates and government officials to learn about election laws, best practices in inclusive political participation, and assistive devices including legal excerpts from relevant international and national laws, a library of publications related to disability rights and political participation and examples of inclusive voter education from around the world

Ensuring the enfranchisement of people with disabilities

WARD, Andrew,
BAKER, Paul M A,
MOON, Nathan W
October 2008

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"In a representational democracy, the process of selecting people to represent the electorate is critical. To accomplish this goal, it is crucial that elections be fair and accurate reflections of the decisions of the voters. However, a significant and relatively unacknowledged constituency, people with disabilities, faces a variety of barriers to full participation in the U.S. electoral democracy. Recent research has provided evidence that how people with disabilities vote is just as important as the physical barriers they face when casting their votes. This article presents an overview of the literature addressing issues that affect how people with disabilities vote, with an especial focus on the role of election officials as both facilitators and inhibitors of voting by people with disabilities"
Journal of Disability Policy Studies, Vol 20, No 2

Equal access : how to include persons with disabilities in elections and political processes

ATKINSON, Virginia,
AZELTON, Aaron,
FOGG, Ken
April 2014

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This publication provides governments, civil society and the donor community the requisite tools and knowledge to promote the participation of persons with disabilities in elections and political processes.

It draws on international standards, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and presents four mutually reinforcing strategies to increase the political participation of persons with disabilities: Empower persons with disabilities and disabled persons' organizations (DPOs) through trainings on technical elections issues as well as organizational and advocacy skills; Support government institutions such as election management bodies and legislatures to create inclusive and accessible legal and regulatory frameworks; Include DPOs in broad-based civil society coalitions, such as election monitoring groups; Assist political parties to conduct meaningful outreach and encourage inclusion of persons with disabilities in leadership positions and as candidates. Good practices from around the world are highlighted throughout the manual.

The executive summary is presented in easy to read format, and the publication is available in plain text for those who use screen readers

Global initiative to enfranchise people with disabilities

INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR ELECTORAL SYSTEMS (IFES)

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Includes information about model programs used in developing and industrialised nations to ensure that people with disabilities can exercise their universal right to vote. The website also contains research, important articles and links. The website is fully accessible to Internet users with disabilities

Inclusion of persons with disabilities

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION FOR ELECTORAL SYSTEMS (IFES)

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The section of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) website features information about the inclusion of people with disabilities in elections and the political process

Submissions to the thematic study by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on participation in political and public life by persons with disabilities

OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (OHCHR)
2011

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The webpage presents submissions received for the OHCHR’s thematic study on participation in political and public life by persons with disabilities. The submissions listed include responses from: 64 States Parties, one intergovernmental organization, 19 civil society organizations, 22 national human rights organizations, four United Nations human rights presences and three individuals. These submissions are useful to anyone interested in the participation of people with disabilities in political and public life

Thematic study by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on participation in political and public life by persons with disabilities

OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (OHCHR)
December 2011

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This study "focuses on participation in political and public life by persons with disabilities. It analyses relevant provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, highlights good practices in the field of participation of persons with disabilities in elections and in the conduct of public affairs, and identifies the main challenges that still prevent or limit the equal and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the political and public life of their countries"
A/HRC/19/36

Zero project report 2015 : independent living and political participation

BALMAS, Silva
et al
January 2015

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This study report focuses upon the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) regarding political participation and independent living. 39 innovative practices and 11 innovative policies addressing independent living and political participation were selected based on such criteria as innovation, impact, scalability, and professional approach. Further, the analysis and results from the social indicators questionnaire, answered by 275 experts from 150 countries, are presented with a particular focus on political participation and independent living

Note: all results and indicators, including interactive maps, are available for users on the website

Country-level

"I want to be a citizen just like any other" : barriers to political participation for people with disabilities in Peru

BARRIGA, Shantha Rau
et al
2012

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"This report documents legal, physical, communication and attitudinal barriers experienced by people with different disabilities in exercising their right to political participation just like others in society. It also examines how restrictions on legal capacity impact the ability of people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities in particular to enjoy a range of rights, including the right to own or inherit property, be employed or legally represent their children"
Note: This report is available in pdf, word and easy-read formats

Assessment of election access barriers in Guatemala

SERPE, Lauren
November 2012

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This research report presents the lessons learned from various activities to improve the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the electoral process and future programming needs in Guatemala. Three research activities captured the different perspectives of those working on or affected by inclusion issues: a survey of 250 electoral authorities; six focus groups consisting of persons with disabilities and those who work with persons with disabilities; and six in-depth interviews with leaders of disabled persons organizations (DPOs) with whom IFES had worked during the previous electoral cycle

Bali commitments on equal access to elections

GENERAL ELECTION NETWORK FOR DISABILITY ACCESS (AGENDA)
November 2012

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This report records the outcome of the 2nd Regional Dialogue which adopted the Bali Commitments. The Bali Commitments recognise the rights of persons with disabilities to have the equal right to participate in political life and that they often face discrimination and exclusion from participation. While recognising that there are unique barriers faced by countries in Southeast Asia, the Bali Commitments commit to making the political process more accessible, and resolve to eliminate all forms of discrimination. It outlines the eight mains points that need to be addressed to achieve full and equal participation in the political process for persons with disabilities
2nd Regional Dialogue
Bali, Indonesia
10-11 November 2012

Case of Alajos Kiss v Hungary

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
May 2010

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This document is a transcript of the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Alajos Kiss v Hungary. The applicant, diagnosed with manic depression, found that his name was removed from the electoral register because he was subject to partial guardianship. The court found that this action breached Article 4 of Protocol No 1 to the CRPD
Note: there is a language versions tab at the top of the page which enables access to official translations of this document in English and French and to unofficial translations in the Russian, Serbian and Turkish languages

Defining the barriers to political participation for individuals with disabilities

HALL, Thad E,
ALVAREZ, R. Michael
May 2012

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This report examines the barriers to political participation that can exist for individuals with disabilities. Such studies can be difficult because there are few studies that examine both disability status and political variables such as party identification and ideology. No studies directly ask about whether a person’s disability status directly interferes with the various aspects of political participation, such as getting news about candidates or navigating the polling place in order to vote. The analyses that follow utilize data from several surveys, including the Current Population Survey, the 2008 Study of the Performance of American Elections, and the 2008 Cooperative Congressional Election Study
Working Paper #001

Disability inclusion in the voter registration process : the challenges, lessons learned and good practices : a pathway of disability inclusion in political rights

CAMBODIAN DISABLED PEOPLE’S ORGANIZATION
August 2015

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“This research report represents the importance of barriers and good practices of disability inclusion in the voter registration process in Cambodia. It outlines a pathway in which government and civil society can work together to break down the barriers faced by persons with disability in their access to voter registration”

Electoral participation of electors with disabilities : Canadian practices in a comparative context

PRINCE, Michael J
March 2012

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"This report addresses three main research questions: What barriers do people with disabilities, physical and/or mental, face when trying to vote? What reforms have countries and, in the case of Canada, provinces introduced since 2000 to reduce or eliminate barriers to voting for people with disabilities? More specifically, what services, supports and laws or standards have governments introduced to ensure better access to voting by electors with disabilities The specific focus of this report is on the right to vote, rather than on the right to freely associate as an activist or to run as a candidate and to hold elected office. Five national jurisdictions are reviewed in this report, specifically Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and New Zealand. On Canada, attention is given to developments and practices at the federal, and provincial and territorial levels of government"

Innovations for successful societies

CHAUBEY, Varanya
November 2008

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"Khalfan H. Khalfan, executive director of the Organization of People with Disabilities, talks about his and others' efforts in Zanzibar to enfranchise disabled people. He addresses the challenges involved in ensuring disabled people can exercise their right to vote and explains the particular difficulties disabled people face in accessing polling stations, casting their votes in private, and avoiding election violence. He also speaks briefly about his role as an election observer in Zanzibar’s first multiparty election in 1995 and some of the irregularities he noted during that election"
Elections G2
Note: This interview is available from the link above as an mp3 file and transcription pdf and word files

Political participation for everyone : disabled people’s rights and the political process

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
October 2012

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This report deals with the issue of the right to political participation which includes voting procedures, voting by secret ballot, access to political information and participation in political parties in New Zealand. The issues of information accessibility and built environment accessibility are addressed in separate reports. This report covers the following: the Commission’s experience and research; the relevant international standards and domestic legislation; international good practice; and ideas to improve political participation in New Zealand
Book 3 of 3

Political participation of women with disabilities in Cambodia : research report 2010

HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL FRANCE (HIF),
THE CAMBODIAN DISABLED PEOPLE’S ORGANIZATION (CDPO),
THE COMMITTEE FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS IN CAMBODIA (COMFREL)
2010

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"This report examines the interests of women with disabilities, as well as the barriers to their participation. It also provides recommendations for the promotion of their electoral and political participation, while highlighting opportunities and strategies for intervention and engagement by relevant stakeholders"

Project : ¨Right to Choose¨|Manual for best practices and lessons learned|Inclusion of people with disabilities in the electoral and political processes of the Dominican Republic, 2012-2013

IBERO-AMERICAN NETWORK OF ORGANIZATIONS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (LA RED),
INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATIOIN FOR ELECTORAL SYSTEMS (IFES)
Eds
2013

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This manual presents the best practices and lessons learned from the "Right to Choose: Inclusion of People with Disabilities in the Electoral and Political Processes of the Dominican Republic" project. The project sought to motivate key public officials to create and strengthen conditions for political participation of people with disabilities in the Dominican Republic

The right to vote of persons with disabilities in Chile : Law no 20.183 as a factor of progress for inclusive democracy

REYES, Maria Soledad Cisternas
March 2013

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"This article describes the process of adoption of Law 20.183 of 2007, which recognises the right of persons with disabilities to have support in the act of voting. The process began with a lawsuit which inspired legal research conducted at the national level. A project of civil society advocacy was subsequently developed and implemented to promote the right to vote of persons with disabilities. The process resulted in a legislative initiative and culminated in the adoption of the 2007 Constitutional Act on voting and elections which recognized the right to support in the act of voting for persons with disabilities"
IDA Human Rights Publication Series, Issue 1, The Right to Vote and to Stand for Election

The role of Germany’s CRPD monitoring body in the implementation of article 29

PALLEIT, Leander
March 2013

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"This article aims to briefly describe the actions taken by the National CRPD monitoring body in Germany (Monitoring-Stelle zur UN-Behindertenrechtskonvention) in order to promote the implementation of Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)"
IDA Human Rights Publication Series, Issue 1, The Right to Vote and to Stand for Election

Towards equal participation of people with disabilities in South Sudan : a survey of the inclusion of people with disabilities in civic and social life

FORCIER, Natalie,
SOWASH, Alexandra,
HALL, Amy
2013

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This report presents the results of a Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices (KAP) Survey which explored opportunities for the increased involvement of people with disabilities within government processes and humanitarian organisations through identifying civic participation barriers and facilitators. Surveys were conducted with people with disabilities, disabled people's organisations and self-help groups, as well as community members and leaders who aim to support efforts to include and empower people with disabilities within their communities and inform the development of an advocacy and training campaigns. The surveys show the efficacy of services for people with disabilities and the gaps. The programming strengths and weaknesses identified provide comprehensive recommendations for programming improvements

Voter’s opinion of the election process in Libya

ABDUL-LATIF, Rola
March 2013

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This research report examines the perspective of voters and their opinions of the election process. It presents the findings from eight focus group discussions in November 2012 with Libyan citizens who voted in the General National Congress (GNC) elections

Regional

Accessible elections for persons with disabilities in five Southeast Asian countries

THE CENTER FOR ELECTION ACCESS OF CITIZENS WITH DISABILITIES (PPUA Penca),
GENERAL ELECTION NETWORK FOR DISABILITY ACCESS (AGENDA)
2013

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This report is the first systematic attempt to gather data on election access from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam. The report reviews, for persons with disabilities, existing legal frameworks, challenges and barriers in exercising political rights and participation; best practices and innovations; and examples of how disabled persons organisations have been involved in electoral issues

Fundamental rights of persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with mental health problems

EUROPEAN UNION AGENCY FOR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (FRA)
November 2010

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This report provides the first results from a legal study carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in the context of its project on the "Fundamental rights of persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with mental health problems." It begins with an analysis of the key international and European principles relating to the right to political participation. The situation in EU Member States is summarised and compared in Section 2. The report then presents the legal situation in the EU Member States and concludes with some possible ways forward
Note: This report is also available in easy read format

Incheon strategy to "make the right real" for the persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific

UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC (ESCAP)
November 2012

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"This report presents information about 'The Incheon Strategy' which provides the Asian and Pacific region, and the world, with the first set of regionally agreed disability-inclusive development goals. Developed over more than two years of consultations with governments and civil society stakeholders, the Incheon Strategy comprises 10 goals, 27 targets and 62 indicators. The Incheon Strategy builds on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action and Biwako Plus Five towards an Inclusive, Barrier-free and Rights-based Society for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. The Incheon Strategy will enable the Asian and Pacific region to track progress towards improving the quality of life, and the fulfillment of the rights, of the region’s 650 million persons with disabilities, most of whom live in poverty"
ST/ESCAP/2648

Interpretative declaration to the code of practice in electroal matters on the participation of people with disabilities in elections

EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR DEMOCRACY THROUGH LAW (VENICE COMMISSION)
October 2010

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This short paper outlines the Interpretative declaration to the code of practice in electoral matters on the participation of people with disabilities in elections which was adopted by the Council for Democratic Elections and the Venice Commission. This Code of Practice adds detail to the five principles underlying Europe’s electoral heritage of universal, equal, free, secret and direct suffrage

Rights in action : good practices for inclusive local governance in West Africa

PIATTA, Francesca,
GUY, Michael
2010

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"Rights in Action" is a multi-stakeholder initiative using the Making it Work methodology in seven West African countries. This report analyses examples of people with disabilities actively participating in local governance and influencing decision making in West Africa. It provides a series of practical recommendations for key stakeholders on how to replicate this good practice which links with article 29 of the UNCRPD. This report would be of interest to people working with disability rights and local inclusive governance in West Africa

News articles

Adult ward should have right to vote : court

JAPAN TIMES
March 2013

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This short article reports on a landmark ruling in Tokyo where the court ordered that an adult woman with Down Syndrome, who had been barred from voting due to her intellectual disability, was entitled to vote in all elections. The law barring persons with intellectual disabilities from voting was held to unconstitutional. This article will be of interest to anyone interested in the right of people with disabilities participating in political and public life

Ghana elections : a victory for mental health?

SSENGOBA, Medi
January 2013

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This article reports that mentally disabled citizens in Ghana cast votes for their president for the first time but questions if formal enfranchisement is enough. This article will be useful to anyone interested in the rights of people with disabilities to participate equally in political and public life

Inclusive democracies require voting rights for people with disabilities

NEIER, Aryeh
November 2011

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This blog post presents the story of a woman with Down Syndrome who initially was prevented from voting in Peruvian elections because of her intellectual disability but successfully won her right to vote. The article concludes by encouraging inclusive policies that support the participation of people with disabilities in political life
Note: This post is part of a blog series that reflects on The Open Society Foundations work to advance the rights of persons with disabilities around the world