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IDPP Attends IFES-DSI Event on Electoral Participation of PWDs

IFES-DSI event on electoral participation of persons with disabilities photoOn 29 March 2012, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), in collaboration with Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI), co-hosted the event Opening Doors: Electoral Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Washington, DC. The event featured eleven self-advocates with Down Syndrome discussing DSI’s “My Opinion, My Vote” project. IFES is an outreach partner of the Master's of International Affairs in Comparative and International Disability (CIDP) program. IDPP Research Associate Ms. Kerry Honeycutt attended the Opening Doors event on behalf of the IDPP.

Photo credit: IFES-Laura Thompson

“My Opinion, My Vote” promotes the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities in the electoral process. Advocates for the project have worked successfully to make voting more accessible in Ireland and in five additional countries: Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Malta, and Spain.

Although the European Union has signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), including Article 29 – participation in political and public life – the lack of a monitoring body allows states to evade compliance without consequences, making organizations such as DSI vital. As a result of the work of DSI, ballots in Irish elections now feature pictures of each candidate, as well as the logo of the candidate’s affiliated party. Such reforms are reflective of Universal Design practices, in that voters who are elderly or whose native language may not be English also benefit.

Mr. Chad Vickery, IFES Regional Director for Europe and Asia, and Mr. Patrick Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of DSI, also spoke and answered questions during the event.

As an outreach partner organization of the CIDP Master's program, IFES is a collaboration partner of IDPP Executive Director Dr. Derrick L. Cogburn’s course “Cross-Cultural Collaboration and Global Virtual Teams.” The course is part of the CIDP Master's curriculum. In the course, American University students in CIDP and other School of International Service programs across ASEAN and the U.S. work in virtual teams on cross-cultural collaboration projects with organizations including IFES.

Details in this article are an account from the IDPP staff person who attended the event.