Inclusion Europe: “It is unfair. We are all able to vote. And we want to vote!”

Every adult should be allowed to vote without discrimination. People with disabilities can only use this right if voting procedures becomes accessible. And recent developments in different EU countries are encouraging: progress is happening.

These were the three key takeaways from Inclusion Europe’s #ThisTimeWeAreVoting event in the European Parliament, where the organisation kicked off its election manifesto.

“If candidates want to be elected, they should make an effort to be understood!”

Jean Molynas, a Belgian-Greek self-advocate, made it clear in his intervention that people with intellectual disabilities should not be discriminated against when it comes to the right to vote: “It is unfair, it is not normal. We are all able to vote. And it is important for us to vote!”, he said, asking politicians to make their campaigns more accessible: “We need easy-to-read manifestos and they should take the time to explain things. If candidates want to be elected, they should make an effort to be understood!”

Martha Stickings from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights presented their report on “Who will (not) get to vote in the 2019 European Parliament elections?”, which was published on the same day. The report looks at the right to vote of people under guardianship in EU Member States.

Its main findings are:

  • Two-thirds of EU Member States still have restrictions on the right to vote of people deprived of legal capacity.
  • There are a number of positive developments in countries such as Belgium, Germany Denmark Spain and Slovakia
  • Drivers for change include:
    • Court rulings
    • Recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
    • European and national strategies on political participation of persons with disabilities (or covering this subject)
    • Civil society engagement

“Why is the European Commission keeping silent here?”

With France being the latest case of countries extending the right to vote to people under guardianship, Vice-president of the European Parliament Sylvie Guillaume denounced the fact that it is up to individual member states to advance this cause:

“Why is the Commission precisely, in that case, limiting itself to only encouraging best practices and not reacting more strongly in order to improve this current situation? In several occasions, the Commission has been able to demonstrate a strong stance against violations of the Treaty, so why is it keeping silent here? I consider it a missed opportunity to make the voice of an inclusive Europe heard.”

Running accessible elections

Examples of how voting can become more accessible were presented by Milena Johnová, a city councillor for Prague. She explained how the city is supporting people with intellectual disabilities in voting, by collaborating with local NGOs, sharing support material and working with social care providers.

Challenging national authorities to provide information about the elections in an accessible way is also one of the demands of Inclusion Europe’s election manifesto. It was signed during the event by Sylvie Guillaume and MEP Lambert Van Nistelrooij.

Beyond voting rights: Running for office

While voting rights and voting accessibility were the main topics of the events, running for office was another area that was discussed.

André Burger, a father of a son with an intellectual disability and member of the municipal council of Bloemendaal in the Netherlands, encouraged other parents to run for office: “Parents know their own situation best, they know what must change for themselves and for their children. Parents go for it!”

And self-advocate Jean Molynas, as a person with an intellectual disability, plans to be one of the pioneers in this area: “For the next local elections, I intend to run for office.”

Full article.