Opening Doors

Publication Date: 
10 Aug 2011

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Today, 15 out of every 100 persons in the world, or one billion people, have a disability.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) promotes democratic stability, active citizen participation and strong civil society, governance and transparency worldwide. IFES works toward fostering partnerships among disabled person’s organizations (DPOs), civil society and governments. In coordination with local partners, IFES strives to remove barriers which prohibit full participation of persons with disabilities as voters, poll workers, observers and candidates. When barriers are removed, people with disabilities are afforded their full rights as citizens.

Since 1997, IFES has focused on taking a leading role to ensure persons with disabilities can participate in the political process on an equal basis. IFES has led development of global tools such as the manual Equal Access: How to Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes; ElectionAccess.org, an online clearinghouse dedicated to the political rights of persons with disabilities; and the first Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) module on disability rights and elections. This interactive adult learning methodology is used to enhance skills of election officials and disability rights advocates. In recognition of its disability rights work, IFES received the Interaction Disability Inclusion Award in 2011 and two Zero Project Innovative Practice awards in 2015.

IFES has successfully implemented disability rights programs in every region of the world. This includes auditing physical access to polling stations in Zimbabwe, developing tactile ballot guides in Georgia, training persons with disabilities to be election observers in Haiti, training poll workers on supporting voters with disabilities in Morocco and developing voter education targeting women with disabilities in Myanmar. IFES also works on a regional scale to empower DPOs to impact governmental bodies such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Pacific Islands Forum and Council of Europe.

A true democratic process sees each citizen, voter or candidate, participate.