IFES Conducts Training in Tbilisi on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities
From August 8-9, 2016, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), in coordination with the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia, conducted a disability rights training on good practices for including persons with disabilities in elections. The intervention was an important component of the ongoing IFES support to the CEC under the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded “Strengthening Electoral Processes in Georgia” project. The training was facilitated by IFES Inclusion Officer Rebecca Aaberg and equipped trainers to pass on practical measures to poll workers on ways to support voters with disabilities.
High-level participants, among them the Deputy Director of the CEC Training Center, the CEC Head of Coordination for the Management and Reporting Department, and disability rights advocates, learned about assisting voters with disabilities on Election Day, setting up an accessible polling place, and national and international legal frameworks on equal access to political participation and elections.
Participation by both CEC representatives and disability rights advocates added to the substance of the training and provided an opportunity for them to connect on issues for mutual consideration. One attendee, who is a parent of a person with a disability and a member of the League of Social Security, noted that this training is critical for voter support during the upcoming parliamentary elections.
To complement the training, IFES developed the Manual on Disability Inclusion in Georgian Elections, which will be made available in polling stations throughout the country for the elections on October 8. The manual includes practical guidance for poll workers on etiquette with additional information on Georgian legislation and international inclusion standards.
In addition to leading the training, Aaberg met with key stakeholders, including the CEC Working Group on Disability Inclusion, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Head of the CEC Publicity Office on engaging citizens with disabilities throughout the electoral cycle.
The CEC’s commitment to engaging voters with disabilities and improving access to information and participation with IFES support has resulted in website improvements for blind and low vision users, including Georgian Sign Language interpretation for all CEC videos and providing mobile ramps to increase polling station accessibility. Additionally, the CEC hired persons with disabilities to work at the CEC call center, an initiative that connects voters with election information.