Guidelines on Promoting the Political Participation of Persons with Disabilities

2019/07/19

The Guidelines on Promoting the Political Participation of Persons with Disabilities has been published by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions for Human Rights (ODIHR). With a specific focus on the role of political parties and parliaments, this resource outlines ways to make democratic participation accessible to persons with disabilities (PWDs) that go beyond voting.

The WHO estimates that about 15 percent of the world’s population has a disability. This amounts to more than one billion people around the globe. Despite being one of the largest marginalized groups in the world, persons with disabilities are excluded and largely under-represented in democratic structures such as parliaments and political parties. To address this, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is working to honor its commitment to ensure equal opportunity for PWDs to participate fully in the life of their society through a series of resources, including their newest guidelines for increasing political participation. These guidelines begin by outlining major arguments in the topics of disability and accessibility, such as defining reasonable accommodation and disability perspectives, grounding inclusive political participation in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and describing obstacles PWDs face such as inaccessible communication methods, lack of societal support, and restrictive legal frameworks. From there, the resource outlines actions parties and parliaments can take to reduce barriers, including conducting an accessibility and inclusion assessment of the party or parliament’s internal structure, activities, and budget using an intersectional lens (i.e. looking at the additional barriers a person with a disability who is also female or from an ethnic minority might face). Following this assessment different methods can be implemented to resolve accessibility gaps. For political parties this can include budgeting for accessible campaign materials or using inclusive recruitment strategies, while for parliaments this could include producing accessible media and developing an accessibility policy. The document also includes a set of disability inclusion checklists for political parties and recommends partnering with a local disabled persons organization in order to find solutions to identified barriers.