Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of democracy and essential to keeping governments accountable. But in many parts of the world the fundamental right to vote is denied to persons with disabilities. Today, to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, here are two examples of how disabled persons' organizations are taking action to demand more say in their countries' politics.
Paraguay Takes Big Big Step Toward Enfranchisement of People with Disabilities
In August, Fundación Saraki, a group that promotes the rights of people with disabilities, signed an agreement with the United States Agency for International Development and Paraguay's Superior National Electoral Tribunal that will allow the group it to provide information and technical assistance to the tribunal. The agreement aims to promote voter registration of persons with disabilities in preparation for Paraguay's November 2015 municipal elections.
Fundación Saraki’s assistance will be based on a recently-launched manual -- written by NDI and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, with support from USAID -- titled Equal Access: How to Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes. The manual identifies and addresses the unique challenges to political participation faced by persons with disabilities.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, People with Disabilities “Stand Up” for their Voting Rights
In the DRC, only 2 percent of people with disabilities voted in the last general elections in 2006. A conference last month put on by the National Federation of Associations of People Living with Disabilities Congo (FENAPHACO) addressed that issue. Patrick Pindu-di-Lusanga, director of the Handicap and Elections Project and national coordinator for the conference, reminded the participants about the FENAPHACO chant, "Stand up! Stand up!" He hopes that through active participation in the electoral process, people with disabilities can achieve their goal of integration and equal opportunity in the DRC. This conference is just one of many steps that the Handicap and Elections Project is taking to encourage the political participation of people with disabilities.
People with disabilities are frequently marginalized and rarely have a voice in political decision making. Recognizing their need for greater inclusion, NDI programs work to empower people with disabilities to engage politically and become full members of society. Read more about NDI’s work for people with disabilities here.