Americas and the Caribbean
The inclusion of persons with disabilities in political and electoral processes is improving throughout Latin America and Haiti. Election officials and disabilities rights organizations are working to break down barriers. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) works around the world to promote the democratic rights of all citizens including persons with disabilities. IFES Inclusion Coordinator Anais Keenon interviewed Pamela Molina Toledo to discuss this work. Molina is an international expert on and advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. In this video, they discuss the fight to increase access, success and opportunities.
(Participants are speaking in American Sign Language)
Anais Keenon: Hello and welcome to Dialogues on Democracy. I am Anais Keenon. I work here at IFES on inclusion coordination. Today I am interviewing Pamela Molina. She is from Chile, is deaf, and is an expert disability rights advocate. We talked about political processes in Haiti and the Latin America region.
(To Pamela) What challenges, in your personal experience, when trying to vote or trying to find information about candidates, what’s your personal experience with political rights?
Pamela Molina Toledo: I became deaf later in life, at age 13, which means I know how to read Spanish. Most of the information in my country of Chile can be read in newspapers. I read a lot. Other deaf people…they’re frustrated. They can’t access information. Barriers are everywhere, and they’re not able to get information.
Anais Keenon: In general for Latin America, and especially for Haiti, what types of barriers are there for political rights for persons with disabilities?
Pamela Molina Toledo: Some barriers are coming down. So it’s improving in Latin America. In Central America there is still much to do, and Haiti is a big challenge. Sons and daughters are hidden in the house, and families don’t realize they have the right to vote or to access information. Families just don’t know what to do. Governments don’t know how many people with disabilities there are. In Haiti this is a big problem, with counting and statistics, they don’t know how many people have disabilities.
Anais Keenon: IFES works with many different types of people, including election authorities, voters with disabilities, voters without disabilities, researchers, human rights advocates. How should they support political rights for persons with disabilities?
Pamela Molina Toledo: If we start from a human rights perspective, that means everyone is included, everyone. Human rights organizations that focus on human rights broadly should think, disability is not always a health issue, it’s not only a health issue that sets up barriers for the disability community – it’s a human rights topic. Meeting with CEP, which is the Council for Electoral Processes, I had a meeting with the informational team. It was a good experience for me. They came up with many questions for me and wanted to learn about the human rights perspective, and they were aware that they need to include persons with disabilities, but they didn’t know how. They were imagining many, many problems and barriers to inclusion. I was enthusiastic about answering their questions and explaining that it was simple, not complicated and to not worry, you can do it. So, switch to thinking to that perspective, that paradigm, and when you start from that, you’ll understand the different “action-makers" that should be involved, the different topics - including persons with disabilities - that should participate equally. This is an issue of citizenship, and equality.
Anais Keenon: Thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate that you joined us here at IFES.
Pamela Molina Toledo: Thank you for interviewing me. I’m happy to be here and sharing my experiences. Thank you.
Anais Keenon: For more information about Haiti and IFES’s work there, please visit www.ifes.org
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