Thematic Study on the Participation in Political and Public Life by Persons with Disabilities

Updated: May 2015
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Section 68 of the Thematic study by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on participation in political and public life by persons with disabilities states:


The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities heralds a new era for the political participation of persons with disabilities. Article 29 requires States parties to guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others. This provision does not foresee any reasonable restriction, nor does it allow any exception. Article 12, which recognizes that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life, also does not provide for any exception to the principle, and only requires States parties to take appropriate measures “to provide access by persons with disabilities to the support they may require in exercising their legal capacity.


Section 69 states:

It can be concluded that in accordance with the Convention, exclusion or restriction of political rights of persons with disabilities on the basis of disability may constitute “discrimination on the basis of disability” within the meaning of article 2 of the Convention and is contrary to the Convention.


Section 70 states:


In the majority of countries that responded to the OHCHR questionnaire, persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities continue to be deprived of their right to vote and be elected on the basis of constitutional or legal provisions that link their political rights to legal capacity. Such restrictions may be inconsistent with the obligations that States parties have undertaken under articles 2, 12 and 29 of the Convention, and should be eliminated as a matter of priority from national legislation and practices, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1 (a) and (b), of the Convention. In order to ensure that persons with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities exercise their right to vote and be elected on an equal basis with others, States parties should adopt all appropriate measures, in line with article 12, paragraph 3 and 29 (a) (iii), to provide persons with disabilities with the support they may require, including the assistance of a person of their own choice, in exercising their political rights.


Section 71 states:


Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights should be interpreted and applied taking into account the developments in the areas of human rights of persons with disabilities. In the light of these developments, the Human Rights Committee should consider reviewing its general comment No. 25 (1996) on the right to participate in public affairs, voting rights and the right of equal access to public service, so as to reflect the progressive evolution of international human rights law in this field.


Section 72 states:


The replies to the questionnaire provide a number of positive examples of the efforts undertaken by States to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise their voting rights on an equal basis with others. However, they also show that in many countries persons with disabilities continue to encounter a number of physical and communication barriers, ranging from inaccessible polling stations to the lack of information in accessible formats that prevent or limit their equal and effective participation in the conduct of public affairs. Much more needs to be done to ensure the equal and effective enjoyment of political rights by all persons with disabilities.


Section 73 states:


Article 29 (a) (iii) requires States parties to adopt appropriate measures to allow persons with disabilities who cannot exercise their right to vote independently to be assisted in voting by a person of their own choice. In their replies, States have provided several examples of the assistance that persons with disabilities can obtain in order to exercise their right to vote. In particular, they listed a number of alternative ways of voting, such as postal voting or voting at special polling stations, that have been developed and implemented to facilitate the political participation of persons with disabilities.


Section 74 states:


The appropriateness of these measures should always be assessed against the general obligation to include persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and to promote their independence, autonomy and dignity. Alternative ways of voting should only be used in cases where it is not possible, or it is extremely difficult, for persons with disabilities to vote in polling stations, like everyone else. General reliance on voting assistance and alternative voting as a way to ensure the political participation of persons with disabilities would not be consistent with the general obligations undertaken by States parties under articles 4 and 29 of the Convention.