Access to election process is the political rights of persons with disabilities. The election authorities have to provide the necessary facilities and accessibilities for persons with different disabilities to enjoy their rights. Persons with disabilities participated in the Parliamentary Election in 2018 and Presidential Election in 2019. ALSO with support of IFES observed these two elections. The objective of the observation was to find out about the access, barriers, challenge and progress of person with disabilities participation in the election process and to encourage the election authorities promote disabilities inclusion in the election process in the future.

The observation findings are summarized and detailed as followings:

Distance of polling centers

Distance of the polling centers or polling has been one the barriers to access of persons with disabilities to election process. Persons with disabilities are not able to participate in the election where necessary facilities do not exist. This finding is more from central cities of the provinces, but in distant areas or districts the situation will be different because the roads or way are bumpy and unsmooth for persons with disabilities. Suitable transport is not also available for persons with disabilities.

Lack of family support and voting card

Supports of families are vital in participation of persons with disabilities in the election. The people with disabilities who were not able to participate in the election, lack of support of their families were highlighted. In addition, some of them did not have voting cards to participate in the election as well. One of the reasons for not able to get voting cards, could be linked with support of families.

Awareness on election for persons with disabilities

Awareness of persons with disabilities is vital factor for their inclusion in the election, but persons with disabilities did not receive enough awareness about the election process, because enough awareness was not provided for persons with disabilities by media or by IEC on the Presidential Election. The majority of the respondents with disabilities did not attend any awareness session on disability inclusion.

Location of polling centers and stations

Physical accessibility is an important factor in inclusion of persons with disabilities in election process, but physical accessible was a major barrier at the polling centers and stations. Majority of persons with disabilities highlighted it at the presidential election in 2019. Most  of the polling stations had steps and they were not located on the ground floors and alternative accessibility facilities were not considered for the polling stations by IEC for persons with disabilities. The second major problem is lack of accessible toilets for persons with disabilities at polling centers and stations; more than 75 percent of the polling centers and polling stations did not have standard toilets for persons with disabilities to use on the Election Day.

More than 75 percent of the observed polling stations and centers were located at schools and mosques. It is clear that they are not physically accessible for persons with disabilities[1]. However, some of the schools which have been recently built by Ministry of Education, ramps have been considered for wheelchair-users, but the old ones do not have ramps or other facilities. The mosques are mostly built by the community and ramps or other accessibility are not considered for persons with disabilities.

For selection of the polling centers, IEC does not have any criteria or procedure for accessibility of the locations for persons with disabilities.

Persons with Visual disability

Persons with visual disabilities participated in the presidential election parliamentary election, but the ballot, guideline or any other communication documents were not printed in Braille for persons with visual disabilities. On the Election Day, persons with visual disability got assistance of one their relatives to help them in voting.  No magnifying glasses or other assistive devices were available at the polling stations for them.

Persons with auditory disabilities

Guidance and assistance has to be provided by the staff of polling centers for persons with different types of disabilities at the polling stations. But in majority of the polling centers (59%) and stations, guidance, support and specific signboards or sign language interpreters were not available for persons with auditory disabilities on the Election Day.

Registration of disabilities

Information about persons with disabilities is important for better management and inclusion of persons with disabilities in the election process, but IEC does have any data and information about participation of persons with disabilities in the election process. IEC has not taken any measure yet to collect data or register persons with disabilities in the election process. In presidential election, persons with disabilities were not registered when issuing voting before the election nor on the Election Day.

Development in IEC on disability inclusion

The findings of observation report from 2019 parliamentary election was shared with IEC before the presidential election. The objective of the report was to encourage the election authorities to pay more attention to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the presidential election process in 2019. The report attracted the attention of IEC and IECC authorities to disability matters. Before the presidential election the IECC organized two special meetings with disability focused organizations to discuss the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the election process. IECC emphasized that disability has not been considered before and we have to pay more attention and we need the technical support of disabilities focused organizations on disability inclusion in the election process. Also, IEC showed interest in disability matters and invited ALSO to its National Forum and Meetings regularly where inclusion of gender and disability were discussed in the election process, which is a development in disability inclusion because  media, representatives of the candidates and IEC commissioners were present at the Forums and meetings.

[1] This based on the general knowledge and experience of ALSO

Summary of Presidential Election Report 2019