The improvement of the quality of life of people with disabilities, their autonomy, safety and dignity cannot be achieved without their participation in political and public life. Our research aims to identify factors that prevent people with disabilities from taking an active part in political and public life, together with permissive factors encouraging them to participate in elections.
The sample of the study comprises 1104 disabled persons from 83 localities (18 urban localities and 65 villages) from 26 territorial-administrative units of the Republic of Moldova. This is a non-probability sample and survey data is not nationally representative, but reveals problems and difficulties experienced by people with disabilities in their participation in political and public life in the localities surveyed.
The field data shows that 79,9% of disabled people participated to local elections of June 14th, 2015. The participation of disabled people in elections depends on the degree of their autonomy, age as well as the existence of children. People with disabilities aged 35 and over are more actively involved in political and public life. Or, during the local elections of 2015, the highest rate of participation was recorded among disabled people aged 46-55 (86,2%) and the lowest among those of 18-25 years old (70,6%). Every fourth person with a low degree of autonomy and every third person with an extremely low level of autonomy did not participate in the local elections of June 14th, 2015. The presence of children is another factor influencing the participation in elections of people with disabilities. Participation to local elections from 2015 of disabled people that do not have children was about twice higher than among those who have.
Factors that make people with disability participate to elections refer to their conviction that it is necessary to vote (63,0%), their obligation to vote (47,0%), their desire for a particular party or candidate to win (24,8%), etc. The participation of people aged 65 and over and of those with an extremely low level of autonomy is affected by: (i) the possibility of home voting due to the mobile ballot box, (ii) location of polling station, (iii) transportation to polls for people who require. 15,0% of people with disabilities that participated in elections, exercised their right to vote at home. Voting at home was mostly required by disabled people with a low (every third person) and extremely low level of autonomy (almost every second person) but also people aged 65 and over (every third person).
People with disabilities are informed about candidates and parties in family (59.3%), less often by neighbours or friends (24.9%), other relatives (19.5%), representatives of different political parties (16, 8%), representatives of local public authorities (6.1%). Only 34,3% of disabled people participated in meetings, discussions, debates in the campaign for 2015 local elections. The participation of disabled people with a low and extremely low level of autonomy in these meetings was very low.
Meanwhile, 16.8% of people with disabilities who participated in the elections have reported situations when someone tried to influence their voting decision or were forced on how to vote. Agitators (in 1 of the 3 cases), candidates (in 1of the 4 cases), parents (in 1 of the 5 cases), rarely neigbours, friends, spouse, children or other relatives tried to influence the voting decision of disabled people. Agitators tried to impose their opinion on every second person with an extremely low level of autonomy and each third with a low or an average level of autonomy Parents tried to influence the voting decision of disabled people aged 18-25.
People with disabilities face many challenges in participating in elections. First challenges refer to the access to polling station. 49,2% of the respondents said that face difficulties in going to the polling station to exercise their right to vote as the route from their house to the location is partially accessible or completely inaccessible. Other challenges refer directly to the inaccessibility of polling places: stairs at the entrance of the building (45.5%), lack of wheelchair access ramps (29.1%), lack of indicators in contrasting colours (21.3%), inadequate lighting in voting booths (14.8%), poor lighting inside the polling station (14.4%), lack of voting committee that would provide support to voters with disabilities (12.6%), lack of means of support (10.0%), the presence of stairs in the polling station (9.7%), lack of a voting table for disabled people (8.2%), narrow doors (7.2%), etc.
In 2015 more actions have been taken to improve the participation of disabled people in elections. The survey participants appreciated the following things in the organization of 2015 local elections: (i) well trained election workers that were nice to disabled people, (ii) nice atmosphere and an additional opportunity for socialization, (iii) the fact they have equal rights as other citizens of the Republic of Moldova and that their vote counts, (iv) a good organization and lack of lines while exercising their right to vote; (v) the possibility of home voting; (vi) adjustments made for people with disabilities so they will be able exercise their right to vote (voting booths, envelope template) etc.
People with disabilities who do not participate in political and public life have mentioned the following reasons: they do not want to vote, they are not interested to vote, cannot travel to the polling station, they were not allowed by family members or relatives to vote, their disability that does not allow voting, they did not know that people with disabilities can vote. However, the participation rate of people with disabilities could increase if they notice positive changes due to elections for people in general and for people with disabilities in particular; they would be well informed about candidates; if people with disabilities would run in elections and not least important is the accessibility of the polling station.
The survey data entails the submission of certain recommendations for central and local public authorities, members of civil society that would contribute to the improvement of the participation of people with disabilities in political and public life. Therefore, actions should be taken to: (i) improve the accessibility of polling places, at the entrance and inside the polling station; (ii) raising awareness, improving participation of disabled people to meetings held during the election campaign; (iii) improve social inclusion of disabled people.
For more information: http://www.slideshare.net/Koroli/participarea-persoanelor-cu-dizabi... (in Romanian)
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