Strengthening Disability Inclusion in Pakistan
Since 2010, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has collaborated with local disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs), non-governmental organizations, and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to support Pakistanis with disabilities in exercising their fundamental political and electoral rights.
The civic education platform Pakvoter.org, an IFES-supported initiative, provides information on elections and electoral processes throughout Pakistan. To create greater access for users with disabilities, PakVoter.org permits visitors to have control over certain website components, such as increasing the text size and changing the background color for easier readability. IFES is also collaborating with a DPO, the Special Talent and Exchange Program (STEP), to design an accessibility section on the Pakvoter platform that highlights important information for persons with disabilities.
Additionally, IFES has worked jointly with the ECP, STEP and other stakeholders to produce accessible voter education and training materials for election officers, such as handbooks, posters, leaflets and educational documentaries. Posters encourage viewers to realize the necessity of ensuring that voters with disabilities are able to receive information and use a polling station on par with their peers. Likewise, a poll worker handbook discusses assistive policies for voters with visual and physical disabilities and asks election officials to choose polling stations at naturally accessible sites, such as a location at street level.
In recent years, the ECP has also made important steps toward greater inclusion of persons with disabilities. With input generated by disability rights leaders at a National Consultation Workshop organized by IFES and STEP, the ECP developed a Five-Year Strategic Plan (2010-2014) that contained objectives related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities. A subsequent Five-Year Strategic Plan (2014-2018), developed with support from IFES, also references persons with disabilities.
Other significant achievements include an inclusive election monitoring program in 2013, in which IFES and PakWomen, a local NGO, trained 60 persons with disabilities to observe elections in the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province, and an international conference coordinated by ECP and IFES on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the electoral process in September 2014.
IFES’ Pakistan team remains committed to pursuing further work on inclusion. In January 2015, IFES began a year-long partnership with STEP to encourage Pakistanis with disabilities, particularly women, to register as voters and learn about the electoral process by conducting a nationwide outreach through the PakVoter website, radio and SMS campaigns, and social media platforms. STEP is also providing trainings and capacity-building workshops for DPOs to foster a greater understanding of advocacy methods and techniques.