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European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) holds hearing on voting and disabilities in Europe

Tuesday 12 February 2019

A European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hearing has highlighted that about 800,000 EU citizens from may be deprived of their right to vote in the upcoming European elections as a result of their disability, as well as facing other barriers to voting. The hearing also heard that despite the existing international legal framework for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, legal and technical barriers persist in all EU Member States that may prevent or make it difficult for many Europeans with disabilities to cast their vote or run for office. As many as 16 Member States have national policies and legislation which can deprive the person of their right to vote on the basis of their disability or mental health.

Physical barriers also exist, including polling stations that are poorly adapted to individual needs, as well as electoral information and campaigns that are often inaccessible to deaf or blind people. Marek Plura MEP (Poland), who is also a member of European Alzheimer's Alliance, highlighted that the EU and all Member States have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities (UNCPRD) which clearly articulates civic and political rights. This means that the EU as a whole and individual Member States have an obligation ensure that persons with disabilities are able to vote and to participate in the elections. A new information report compiled on behalf of the EESC is expected to be presented at the plenary in March 2019, outlining around 200 examples relating to legal and technical barriers faced by persons with disabilities who want to exercise the right to vote.

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