Disability and Access in Elections, Virtual PIANZEA Workshop
9-16 December 2021
Pacific EMBs Explore Disability Rights and Elections
Based on a request from the PIANZEA Network (Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators’ Network), a four-day, Virtual BRIDGE Disability and Elections workshop was conducted. A total of nine participants from Fiji, Kiribati, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the Solomon Islands and Australia attended the workshop. The workshop was funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
The BRIDGE facilitation team was made up of Ana Mataiciwa from the Fijian Elections Office (FEO) and Michael Clancy, Alistair Legge and Sara Staino from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). The facilitators were assisted by Carolyn Halliday from the AEC’s Community and International Engagement team who efficiently dealt with all the technical and administrative issues of the workshop.
The workshop covered principles of disability rights, access to voter registration and voter education by persons with disabilities, access to the different levels of the polling process, alternative forms of voting, post-election reporting and planning, and how to legislate for change.
In addition, the workshop explored different ways in which EMBs across the globe advance access for persons with disabilities. The afternoon of day three was dedicated to identifying access issues in the participant countries and discussing strategies to address them. Some of the issues that were identified by the participants, were:
1. Difficulties to access locations for polling stations
2. Lack of EMB resources to conduct targeted outreach and address access issues for persons with disabilities
3. Lack of adequate policy and procedures
4. Lack of a common sign language
5. Stigma in society
To share good practices and experience, the PIANZEA Secretariat invited Faatino Utumapu, the General Manager Nuanua o le alofa, a Samoan Disability Advocacy Organisation who engage with the EMB in Samoa to increase access for persons with disabilities, and Anaseini Senimoli, the Director of Operations of the Fijian Elections Office who shared FEO’s experience in working with disability groups to increase outreach to and access of persons with disabilities across Fiji.
Based on shared lessons from the country case studies and guest speakers, the participants identified and discussed strategies for further increasing access for persons with disabilities in their own countries, and across all aspects of the electoral process.