An online resource to boost access to elections and politics by people with disabilities is to be launched next month by the International Foundation For Electoral Systems (IFES), a non-profit based in Washington DC, E-Access Bulletin has learned.
IFES works internationally to promote access to democracy by all groups including people with disabilities, with funding largely from government agencies in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Its work is aimed at many groups including governments, election management agencies, civil society groups, academics, lawyers, disability groups and people with disabilities.
The new online resource will be based on an overhaul of the foundation’s website ElectionAccess.org, IFES access and inclusion specialist Virginia Atkinson told E-Access Bulletin.
It will include an introduction to disability rights aimed at election management bodies and observer groups, giving examples of inclusive practice such as accessible voter education
“In many countries they don’t think at all about access to elections for people for disabilities”, Atkinson said. “Or maybe they build a wheelchair ramp, but they don’t think about other issues such as accessible voter education, websites or voting machines.”
Materials will include good practice examples such as YouTube videos, images or brochures and posters from other countries, as well as excerpts from relevant laws on election access.
“We are hoping the website will be used as an advocacy tool to create peer pressure, and help change discriminatory laws”, she said. “It will be the only site where all this information is collected in one place.”
Other aspects of the foundation’s current disability rights work includes a major project in South East Asia working with international teams of election observers, Atkinson said. “Many observer teams do not include people with disabilities, and then don’t include questions relating to disability access in their work”, she said.