Celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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Women and men with disabilities pose for a group photo during the Regional Disability Rights Dialogue in Yangon, Myanmar, in January 2019.

The annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities, held on December 3, commemorates the human rights of persons with disabilities. The theme for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: Taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda.” For over 30 years, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has worked around the world to support the political rights of women and men with disabilities, recognizing that all people should have an equal opportunity to contribute their voice within the political life of their communities.

In 2019, IFES partnered with disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) in every region of the world to develop new tools and approaches to empower people with disabilities to participate in political life.

IFES Disability Inclusion Programming Receives International Awards

In February, IFES received international recognition as a recipient of two Innovative Practice Awards from the Zero Project, an initiative of the Austrian Essl Foundation that provides a platform for sharing innovative solutions to barriers faced by persons with disabilities around the world. The two tools selected for the award include IFES’ Election Access Observation Toolkit, which provides a methodology for conducting standalone observations on accessibility and questions for mainstream observer groups to incorporate disability inclusion into their missions, and its Electoral Sign Language Lexicon, which capture and develop critical vocabulary that can be used by Deaf communities to participate in political life. In October, IFES' Engaging a New Generation for Accessible Governance and Elections (ENGAGE) course in the Dominican Republic received a "Seal of Good Inclusion Practice" from the Dominican government. ENGAGE, a leadership course for young persons with disabilities conducted in partnership with a university and local DPOs, can be contextualized for use around the world.

A man with a physical disability and woman review a piece of paper she is holding.

Participants in IFES’ election access observation training in Guatemala practice using a checklist to observe their peers during a mock election.

Supporting Disability Rights Through Election Observation in Guatemala

IFES utilized its Election Access Observation Toolkit to train Guatemala’s National Council for Persons with Disabilities to carry out an election access observation ahead of the general elections in June 2019. The trainings included practical guidance on serving as an election observer and how to analyze observation data.

Mainstreaming Disability Rights Throughout Southeast Asia Governance

In January, IFES, the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) and the Union Election Commission of Myanmar co-hosted the fourth Regional Disability Rights Dialogue in Yangon, Myanmar. The dialogue highlighted opportunities to integrate disability rights into national policies to implement the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The masterplan, which was launched in November 2018, is ASEAN’s first regional action plan for mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities in all aspects of its new regional development agenda.

Lebanese women with disabilities participate in a focus group discussion during IFES’ intersectionality assessment in November 2018.

Building Intersectional Coalitions to Address Discrimination and Violence in Lebanon

IFES, in partnership with the Lebanese Union for People with Physical Disabilities and ABAAD-Resource Center for Gender Equality, launched the “Identify, Interpret and Respond” (IIR) project to empower civil society organizations (CSOs) to address political discrimination and violence through coordinated action. As part of the project, IFES conducted an assessment utilizing its Intersectionality Assessment Framework methodology and implemented a “Power to Persuade” policy platform workshop to facilitate intersectional coalition-building between Lebanese CSOs.

Strengthening Political Rights of Persons with Intellectual and Psychosocial Disabilities in Ukraine

In Ukraine, IFES partnered with the National Assembly of Persons with Disabilities to implement a workshop for DPOs on the political rights of people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. The workshop focused on barriers to political participation of people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, as well as legal reform and advocacy strategies to support their political rights.

Promoting Peaceful and Inclusive Political Participation in Malawi

In order to promote peaceful and inclusive political participation in Malawi, IFES worked with the Malawi Electoral Commission to produce a series of voter education radio messages encouraging persons with disabilities to vote in the May 2019 elections.

Celebrating Participation of Persons with Disabilities

Throughout the month of December, @IFESDisability will be posting quotes from disability rights advocates around the world that celebrate the political participation and leadership of women and men with disabilities. Follow updates using the hashtag #AVoiceForEveryVote.

Learn more about IFES' disability inclusion programming and visit ElectionAccess.org for the latest on disability rights and inclusive political participation.