Virginia Atkinson, Senior Global Advisor, Inclusion
Disability Rights, Access to Health Care and Disaster Risk Management Expertise
Virginia Atkinson has supported disabled people's organizations to conduct public policy advocacy, including on issues related to access to health care and disaster risk management. People with disabilities, who experience discrimination and other barriers to political access, are at risk of having their right to participate compromised during emergencies. Atkinson leads IFES’ disability inclusion programming and is working with disabled people’s organizations in countries around the world to adapt political participation programming to the COVID-19 context. This includes ensuring virtual programming is accessible and inclusive.
Virginia Atkinson has more than a decade of international advocacy and capacity building experience focused on empowerment of marginalized groups. She is the senior global inclusion advisor at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), where she is responsible for providing strategic leadership to IFES’ disability rights portfolio and technical assistance and training to civil society organizations and government stakeholders on inclusive democracy and governance. She spearheads IFES’ intersectional approach to program design, including initiatives to advance the human rights of women and youth who identify with multiple social identities.
Atkinson is lead author of the manual Equal Access: How to Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes and led the development of ElectionAccess.org, a global resource on the political rights of persons with disabilities. Her writing has been published in academic and practitioner journals, including the Nordic Journal of Human Rights, Journal of African Elections and Elections in Europe. Atkinson is actively involved in numerous regional and international human rights groups including as an adviser to the General Election Network for Disability Access in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and serves as a member of the Advisory Board for American University’s Institute on Disability and Public Policy and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Expert Group on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Prior to joining IFES, she worked for Survivor Corps, an organization that advocated for the rights of conflict survivors. Atkinson holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Reading, England.