Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sets out the framework for persons with disabilities’ participation in political and public life and stipulates that state parties shall “guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on equal basis with others.” To achieve this, state parties should: ensure that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate and easy to use for persons with disabilities; and protect the rights of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot, stand for elections and hold office as an elected representative. Furthermore, under Article 29 state parties have the duty to promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can participate in the conduct of public affairs on an equal basis with others, including through the activities of non-governmental organisations, and forming and joining organisations of persons with disabilities. Our paper on Article 29 gives an overview of the situation in Ireland.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Accessibility Checklist for Polling Stations was originally published in 2015. This year, in advance of the European and local elections, we drafted updates to the Checklist which were accepted by the Department. The Checklist has been circulated to returning officers. The NDA works closely with the Department on all matters around accessible voting via our membership of their Working Group on Disability Voting. We are also developing a relationship with the new Electoral Commission. We have met with them directly and made a submission to their Research Programme.

We continue to work with all stakeholders to improve the experience of all voters who can cast their ballot in person and those who have to use a postal vote. We want to help build an environment where more candidates with disabilities can put themselves forward for election, at all levels of our democracy. Finally, we continue to spread the word about Universal Design in all communications around voter information and education.