RightsNow! Consortium Engages Disability Rights Communities in Mexico
At a training hosted in Mexico City from October 26-30, 2015, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) joined RightsNow! consortium partners and the Mexican Coalition for People with Disabilities (Coalición México por los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad [COAMEX]) in conducting a leadership and advocacy training for members of the disability rights advocacy community in Mexico.
Ana Santos, IFES Program Manager for the Latin America and Caribbean, assisted in leading the week-long training, which explored the successes and lessons learned from disability advocacy work conducted in the United States, and supported participants in identifying opportunities for intense, targeted advocacy work. Through the development of advocacy plans, members of different disability rights organizations crafted strategies for addressing a wide range of disability rights issues, including inclusive education, access to employment, independent living and discussions about improving opportunities for political participation. As eagerly commented by one of the participants, “This training has allowed me to share experiences and build relationships to work together to improve the lives of people with disabilities.”
“I want to work to increase the political leadership skills of the disabilities community so that we have talent to propose and demand more political candidates in the political system.” – Alejandro Gallardo, Founder of the National Movement for Inclusion and Democracy of and for People with Disabilities
COAMEX organized discussions with electoral authorities and other political actors to discuss issues around the political participation of people with disabilities. The Mexican electoral authorities are implementing a number of actions such as providing accessible voter education information in braille and easy-to-read formats, braille ballot guides for voters who are blind and have low vision, and providing sign language interpretation for televised voter education campaigns. They are also working to improve accessibility of voting centers. However, much remains to be done, such as removing barriers based on legal capacity that prevent people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities from exercising their political rights. Furthermore, there is an additional need to promote political leadership by people with disabilities.
Recently cited by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as a strong example of U.S. support for disability rights, the RightsNow! Strong Communities through Enforcing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities project’s consortium is led by Mobility International USA and unites IFES with the U.S. International Council on Disabilities and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund to work with government officials, civil society organizations and disabled persons’ organizations to implement and enforce disability rights legislation in Armenia, Kenya, Mexico and Vietnam.
With funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, consortium partners conducted disability rights assessments earlier in the year, and are now working with local disability rights organizations in each country to conduct trainings and develop advocacy action plans. Trainings have now been completed in Mexico and Vietnam, and future trainings will take place in Armenia and Kenya in early 2016.