Persons with disabilities are a heterogeneous group and, like other citizens, they must accommodated in all facets of political and public life. This requires attention to the entire election cycle and the multiple elements within that cycle that hinder or enhance accessibility for persons with disabilities, whatever their access needs may be.
Research undertaken by BBI in collaboration with its partner, the Harvard Project on Disability, has documented numerous gaps between international standards protecting the political rights of persons with disabilities and national law, policy and practice. These are universal and affect developed and developing democracies alike. Electoral codes quite commonly exclude certain categories of persons with disabilities from the franchise arbitrarily and without any empirically grounded reason to do so. Electoral regulations are woefully underdeveloped and thus fail to implement the requirements of election access as set forth in international standards such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Elsewhere in the legal frameworks of most States, guardianship regimes restrict political rights of persons with disabilities. Dispute settlement mechanisms all the while remain largely inaccessible to persons with disabilities, making political rights violation claims all but impossible.
The legal landscape is complex, and the expertise of disability rights organizations to engage in law and policy advocacy in the sphere of electoral law, policy and procedure is limited. And yet advocacy by disability rights organizations can effect changes in law, policy and practice.
BBI and its partners have worked with DPOs and disability advocates and national election commissions around the world on election access training, legal research and analysis, and DPO advocacy to advance the rights of persons with disabilities. BBI is currently partnering with DPOs in Trinidad and Tobago to launch a project that will address law and policy reform around election access in Trinidad and other countries in the region, in India to advance civic participation for women with disabilities, and in South Korea with Handong University to address Article 29 implementation.