Strengthening Political Participation in Europe Through Disability Inclusion Policies

A woman voter uses the QR code on a poster to access sign language information on COVID-19 safety measures at the polling station during Ukraine’s local elections in October 2020.

Election management bodies (EMBs) play a critical role throughout the electoral cycle and in increasing the political participation of persons with disabilities. Through its Regional Europe Office, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is working with EMBs across Europe to promote cross-border learning and strengthen election administration in areas such as disability inclusion.

As part of this initiative, IFES has gathered information about the election administration process in 13 Eastern Partnership and Western Balkans countries since August 2020. This includes questions related to the EMB’s commitment to ensuring persons with disabilities are integrated into all parts of the electoral process, including whether the EMB has a disability inclusion policy. Findings revealed that none of the EMBs surveyed have a standalone disability inclusion policy. The survey showed that few EMBs have hired people with disabilities to serve as commissioners, senior management or staff, or have appointed a disability rights focal point at the EMB.

To address this critical gap, IFES is developing a handbook for EMBs on how to draft a disability inclusion policy to strengthen the participation of persons with disabilities in elections and political processes. The handbook, supported by the United States Agency for International Development, will provide information on international and regional standards supporting disability rights, as well as instructions for EMBs on how to develop a disability inclusion policy. The handbook will also highlight key topics for inclusion in the policy, such as appointing a disability rights focal point at the EMB, reasonable accommodations policies for hiring staff, and involving disabled people’s organizations in lessons learned and strategic planning processes.

Drawing on experiences from IFES’ work to advance the political and electoral rights of persons with disabilities since 1997, this handbook recognizes the fundamental role political participation plays in helping persons with disabilities influence policies that affect their lives and establish a foundation for inclusion in all aspects of society.

Learn more about IFES' disability inclusion programming and Regional Europe Office.

Published on March 5, 2021.

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