Nataliia Skrypka, Executive Director of the National Assembly for Persons with Disabilities, discusses research conducted in Ukraine – with support from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems – about barriers persons with disabilities encounter while voting. Skrypka also discusses how persons with disabilities feel about participating in the electoral process and why inclusion is important for Ukraine’s democracy.
Nataliia Skrypka: (speaking Ukrainian) The National Assembly for Persons with Disabilities is an all-Ukrainian non-governmental organization (NGO) with 118 NGO members representing people living with different types of disabilities, represents the whole territory of Ukraine and is present in all regions. The main task of our organization is representing the interests and protecting the rights of people with disabilities in all spheres and at all levels of authority.
This year, the National Assembly for Persons with Disabilities, with support of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and together with the Central Election Commission, conducted very interesting research in Ukraine on the possibility of fulfilling the right to vote by persons with disabilities. It is interesting that we were able to interview hundreds of people in different regions of Ukraine in both big cities and small towns regarding the barriers they face during their desire to vote, meaning participation in elections.
The biggest barriers persons with disabilities face in most cases are physical barriers, the absence of architecturally accessible polling stations. Inaccessible voting procedures, especially people who are blind or have low vision, are facing such barriers.
At the same time, when we interviewed people with disabilities, we also interviewed officials who had experience working at the polling station. We asked what they think about the presence of barriers for people with disabilities during the election process. It is interesting that the majority of them believed the election process is fully accessible, since there is a possibility of mobile voting at home or at the hospital.
People with disabilities do not consider voting at home as an adaptive mechanism, as the majority of them wish to be together with their families and friends during the election process, because the majority of respondents mentioned that participating in the election process is like a festival for them and it is important for them to be together with other colleagues, friends and family.
Ukraine is now going through hard times. There are military actions going on in Ukraine. The majority of attention from the public is drawn to these events in particular; these, of course, are very important events. During the survey, we face many very frank answers and understanding that participation in elections of every citizen is of crucial importance. Thus, there is an understanding among people, including people with disabilities, even with severe forms of disabilities, that their vote has some value. That their vote is as important as others. That every one of us may at least bring some changes to this country.
(Message appears on screen: "To learn more about elections in Ukraine, please visit: www.ifes.org/ukraine")
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