MEPs demand full access of persons with disability to the political process

6 July 2018

On the 5th July 2018, the European Parliament debated in plenary the state of political participation of persons with disabilities. The debate counted with the intervention  of Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality,  Věra Jourová and of 26 MEPs from across the political spectre.

The debate counted with interventions of several members of Disability Intergroup, including from the four Presidents, MEPs Ádám Kósa, Olga Sehnalová, Helga Stevens and Kostadinka Kuneva, as well as from others members of the Intergroup, such as MEPs Marek Plura, Jana Žitnanská, Michela Giuffrida, and Martina Anderson, among others.

Commissioner Jourová asserted in her opening intervention that “the right to vote must be enjoyed by everyone” and that the Europan Commission supports good practices for accessible voting.

Members of the European Parliament’s interventions focused on 3 rights that persons with disabilities are still not able to fully enjoy: the right to vote (lack of accessibility from polling stations and ballots), the right to information in accessible formats (both information about the elections campaigns and the electoral process, itself) and the right to stand in elections and be elected.

MEP Soledad Cabezón Ruiz stated that, if given the chance, persons with disabilities are more likely to vote than the average population.

MEP Julie Ward called on MEPs to read our Manifesto on the European Elections. She stated that we must maintain an human rights approach and she demanded the Commission to reinstate funding to the European Network on Independent Livng.

MEP Helga Stevens said that 15 EU Member States deny persons with disability the automatic right to vote. She reiterated that information is not fully accessible for persons with disabilities.

MEP Ádám Kósa called on Member States to ensure that electoral legislation is in line with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

MEP Olga Sehnalová  asserted that persons with disability are often forgotten by political groups. She added that accessible elections means not only accessibility to polling stations and ballots, but also the accessibility of information.

MEP Kostadinka Kuneva stated that “We have instruments available (for allowing full political participation of persons with disabilities). Of course they will cost money, real democracy is an expensive system - but the best one we have.”

Another important point, the denial of the right to vote to persons under guardianship was raised by MEP Tilly Metz. This point was reinforced by MEP Ángela Vallina who added that there are still many shortcomings in implementing the U.N. CRPD, especially in relation to political participation of persons with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities.

In her closing statement, Commissioner Jourová stated that the European Commission supported initiatives of the Member States, as the European Union as limited competency on electoral processes.

She added that the European Commission will organise a colloquium o political participation, focusing on youth and vulnerable groups.

She concluded by calling on MEPs to contact their national political groups to effect change in the Member States.

You can check our Twitter coverage of the debate here

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