Inclusion Europe: What about the right to vote?

More than seventy years have passed since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and still, some people cannot enjoy their right to vote.

How is the disability movement addressing the European elections? Many common points exist between persons with disabilities and older persons: older persons are more likely to have a disability and issues of legal capacity, accessibility and access to information are important to many older people. Inclusion Europe is an organisation who fights for the rights and the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. We present their manifesto for the 2019 elections.

Right to vote and persons with intellectual disabilities

People with intellectual disabilities are often denied their right to vote, even though they could understand the impact of their decisions with proper support. Inclusion Europe stresses the importance of strengthening the right to vote and the conditions to exercise it. A key demand is to provide easily understandable information: easy-to-read documents are documents written in special font, with pictures and simple language to make them easier to be understood by everyone, playing an important role in the inclusion of people with disabilities and older people who often find the complex language used by politicians hard to understand.

From AGE’s perspective, legal capacity and the right to vote are also issues for many older persons with disabilities. AGE stresses in its contributions to the United Nations that procedures to remove legal capacity are problematic in many member states, and that a shift from guardianship (‘deciding for a person’) towards supported decision-making (‘supporting a person to make a choice’) should be made when addressing intellectual disabilities.

A call for self-advocates and their relatives to act

Inclusion Europe’s manifesto addresses people who support the inclusion movement, family members of persons with disabilities and political parties. As the new European Parliament will take decisions that will affect all EU citizens, the importance of voting at the new elections is emphasised. Self-advocates and their families can speak up and increase awareness of the issues close to them. Carers need to stand up for their loved ones and ask for accessible information and support.

People with disabilities as well as older persons might face physical barriers in accessing places where social activities take place or information might not be adequately shared with them. This need to change.

European parties: engage with persons with disabilities!

The last section is dedicated to candidates, political parties, their representatives and the authorities responsible for the organization of the elections. It calls upon them to:

  • Engage with people with intellectual disabilities and their families
  • Provide clear and accessible information.
  • Deal with issues that are important to people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

As the topic of intellectual disability affects more than 20 million citizens (people with intellectual disabilities themselves, their family members and friends), actions need to be taken to increase their inclusion and their representation at the European level. With the right training and support, anyone is able to vote and to understand who they are voting for. From the older neighbour to the young student with intellectual disability, the right to access information, to defend their ideas and to vote should be guaranteed.  

More information:

AGE thanks Policy Intern Miriam Saso for the drafting of the present article and Inclusion Europe for reviewing it.

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