Summit for Democracy Disability Rights Cohort Concept Note

One out of every seven people in the world has a disability, yet citizens with disabilities remain under-represented in political and public life. Participation of persons with disabilities in government institutions, public policy, and legislation provides the basis for promoting equality in all aspects of society by breaking down social stigmas and increasing accountability. Active engagement in elections can lead to tangible policy changes on issues such as inclusive education and accessible transportation. Research has shown that public pressure can create strong incentives for elected politicians to deliver public services and develop social protection policies that benefit traditionally marginalized communities, such as persons with disabilities. With the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and economic instability disproportionately impacting persons with disabilities, having a voice in governance is crucial.


  1. Support meaningful engagement of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in democracy, governance, and public policy.
  2. Promote access to voting, political participation, and civic engagement locally and globally.
  3. Mainstream disability rights across all areas of public policy.

Disability Rights Cohort Structure

The cohort will be structured as follows:

The general group of the cohort includes all CSOs, governments, international organizations, private sector partners, and other types of organizations who wish to advance the goals of the Cohort by making at least one commitment that contributes toward disability-inclusive democracy.

The core group of the cohort comprises those organizations that wish to involve themselves more closely to form an advisory committee of the Cohort. Organizations involved in the ‘core’ group commit themselves to implementing at least one event or activity that contributes toward disability-inclusive democracy.

Finally, the leadership group of the cohort consists of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). DFAT and IFES commit to coordinating the cohort and funding, implementing, or contributing to at least one major program that contributes toward disability-inclusive democracy as outlined in the objectives.

Disability Cohort Indicative Actions

The initial focus of the cohort will be centered around Objective 2, promoting access to voting, political participation, and civic engagement locally and globally. Indicative actions are grouped into two areas:

Influencing the Summit for Democracy Process and Other Summit Stakeholders:

  • Encourage participating governments, as well as other stakeholders, to make substantive and concrete commitments related to disability rights at the second Summit for Democracy and the 2025 Global Disability Summit.
  • Mainstream inclusion of disability rights within other Summit for Democracy Cohorts, with a focus on the Youth and Election Integrity cohorts.
  • Advocate for strong disability rights language in the final Summit for Democracy outcome declaration.

Promoting Disability-Inclusion:

  • Advocate for the creation and strengthening of engagement mechanisms to foster the inclusion of persons with disabilities in policy-making processes at all levels. This includes mainstreaming disability rights across a wide range of areas, including climate change,  democracy, governance, peacebuilding, public financial management, resilient economic growth, and social sectors.
  • Disseminate best practices on disability-inclusive civic and political participation and explore their possible replication and scaling up.
  • Facilitate understanding of the links between democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and investigate how sensitive issues such as combatting corruption can be used to drive disability engagement.


  1. Launch a Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Network working group on Disability-Inclusive Democracy. 
  2. Governments make concrete commitments to increase access to civic and political life for persons with disabilities. The Cohort will create a list of sample commitments by collating best practices of governments and civil society members to promote increased participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life. (See a short menu of sample concrete commitments below).  

           a. Australia and the United States are working closely with ASEAN Member State governments and organizations of persons with disabilities to accelerate regional and national implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan and mainstream disability rights into pandemic recovery and disability-inclusive development practices.  In September 2022, the United States launched a new program reflecting USD2.5 million over the last 4 years to support the Enabling Masterplan. Australia supported the development and regional implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan through the ‘Disability Rights in ASEAN’ investment (AUD2.2m, 2018-2022) implemented by IFES through the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA).

          b. Australia is currently exploring with ASEAN new support for the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan’s Mid-Term Review and the implementation of recommendations.

         c. The United States is working with ASEAN to hold a U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2023 focused on implementation of the Enabling Masterplan and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


3. Disability-inclusive democracy resources, toolkits and good practice examples are developed and disseminated for use by governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, and the media.

  a. IFES will produce a handbook for election management bodies on how to develop disability inclusion policies.

  b. Guidance on disability inclusive election technology is developed.


Summit for Democracy Disability Rights Cohort Sample Commitments

Below are sample commitments states can make at the Summit for Democracy to help promote disability inclusion. Some commitments can be implemented at the national level, while other sample commitments relate to Official Development Assistance (ODA). These commitments have been suggested by disability rights and democracy advocates during a series of listening sessions, including at the UN Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Global Action on Disability network annual meeting. This is a living document that will continue to adjust and expand with additional input from key stakeholders. Good practice examples from around the world of disability inclusion in political life can be found on

Please contact for more information.

Sample Commitment

Relevant Cohort(s)

Codify disability rights, such as by the creation of disability inclusion policies at election management bodies and appointing senior focal points on disability rights


Establish consultative mechanisms between election management bodies, legislatures, and political parties with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, including through working groups and establishment of MOUs


Conduct training for election management body staff, legislatures, and political parties on disability rights


Produce voter and civic education information in accessible formats such as audio, braille, easy-to-read, large print, sign language, and wordless formats

Elections, Civic Space, Media Freedom

Procure accessible election technology

Elections, Technology

In consultation with disability rights advocates, develop reasonable accommodations, such as tactile ballot guides


Establish mechanisms to facilitate access to elected office for persons with disabilities, such as quotas and/or Access to Elected Office Funds to support reasonable accommodation expenses for candidates with disabilities


Audit existing legal and policy frameworks for disability inclusion

Civic Space, Elections

Align legal frameworks for elections to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Elections, Civic Space

Eliminate legal capacity restrictions on the right to vote


Support organizations of persons with disabilities to monitor elections and political party commitments

Elections, Civic Space

Ensure all government websites and social media communications are accessible to persons with disabilities

Technology, Media Freedom

Monitor and remove ableist hate speech online and include prohibitions on its use in political party code of conducts

Elections, Disinformation, Civic Space, Media Freedom

Commit to selecting accessible polling stations where possible and develop a plan for making all polling stations accessible in future

Elections, Youth (polling stations are often in schools)

Consider the unique experiences of persons with disabilities who are also women, young people, LGBTQI+ people, Indigenous Peoples, or ethnic or religious minorities, in the design and delivery of voter and civic education

Elections, Gender, Youth

Ensure intersectional approaches are incorporated into legal and policy reform

Elections, Gender, Youth

Develop civic education courses that are inclusive of and accessible to young persons with disabilities

Elections, Youth, Civic Space

Proactively hire young persons with disabilities in government

Youth, Labor

Identify and respond to impacts of electoral violence, particularly on women with disabilities and Indigenous persons with disabilities

Elections, Gender Equality

Establish mechanisms for inclusion of persons with disabilities in all legal reform initiatives

Civil Space

Include disability rights-based reporting and language guidance in media codes of conduct

Media Freedom

Ensure persons with disabilities are meaningfully engaged on public policy on an equitable basis with others.


Integrate targeted goals and indicators on disability-inclusive democracy and governance into the post-Sustainable Development Goals framework


Promote disability-inclusive access to justice mechanisms


Include persons with disabilities in peacebuilding processes and democratic transitions  


Include participation of persons with disabilities as a priority in international development strategies

All cohorts – ODA commitment

Measure and report on ODA spend on disability rights

All cohorts – ODA commitment

Develop a guidance note for Embassy staff globally on meaningful engagement of persons with disabilities in democracy and governance development work and foreign policy

All cohorts – ODA commitment

Create regional and international networks to share good practices and lessons learned on disability inclusive democracy

All cohorts – ODA commitment

Support the implementation of disability-related Summit for Democracy commitments and/or democracy-related Global Disability Summit commitments

All cohorts – ODA commitment




Summit for Democracy Disability Rights Cohort Interest Form

Thank you for your interest in the Disability Cohort! We look forward to hearing from you. Please fill out this form, and we will contact you soon.

If you would like to get in touch with us, please send an email to us at