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New FRA report on the political participation of people with disabilities

The report follows the latest developments since their previous report, in 2014.

Although 1 in 4 people in the EU have a disability, over 800,000 EU citizens had their voting rights denied in the 2019 European Parliament elections due to their disabilities. Now, with the 2024 EU elections around the corner, the European Union  Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has published a report exploring the political participation of persons with disabilities.

Titled “Political participation of people with disabilities – new developments” the report follows the latest developments since their previous report, in 2014. Whilst it highlights recent progress, such as that some Member States have removed restrictions on the right to vote and stand for elections, it also recognises the many barriers that persevere.

For example, since 2010, all Member States of the EU have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). However, some Member States have voiced reservations, including about Article 12 which states Equal Recognition Before the Law.  This means that States should not only recognise the right of persons with disabilities to legal recognition on an equal basis with others but agree to provide the necessary support for exercising said legal capacity.

While legal limitations persist in many Member States, progress is steady, albeit slow. When it comes to voting for individuals under guardianship, judicial practice is moving away from blanket legal restrictions and towards a case-by-case analysis. Simultaneously, Member States which have removed all restrictions to voting rights provide an example of ensuring that persons with disabilities can exercise their political rights.

The report also highlights the progress made in making polling stations accessible, whilst recognising the remaining barriers for individuals with visual, hearing or intellectual disabilities.

Since the 2018 EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive to make media services more accessible, legally binding accessibility standards were introduced in Member States. Whilst sign language interpretation, audio description and subtitling are increasingly provided for key public programmes, private media entities must make further efforts  to increase the accessibility of their programming.

Overall, the report balances the progress made with the progress still wanting. Member States increasingly adopt disability strategies, and specific actions to ensure the accessibility of elections. Nevertheless, engagement and consultation with organisations representing persons with disabilities is still lacking.

The report includes steps towards inclusivity such as: lifting restrictions to vote, making voting facilities and election materials more accessible, removing administrative barriers, providing disability awareness training for election authorities, and more. The report  also identifies promising practices such as accessible campaigns, action plans for public broadcasters and providing transport to the voting polls.

Read the full report