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Accessibility is one of the key principles of the CRPD and a “vital pre-condition for effective and equal enjoyment of different civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights by persons with disabilities.” Article 9 sets out an obligation for state parties to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, information and communications, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public. Measures to be taken include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility.
Access, free of obstacles and barriers, is essential at all stages of the political process. Having access to public buildings used as polling stations or for political meetings, for example, is vital to persons with disabilities as voters and candidates for public office. Access to information and communications provided to the public are equally important, as of participating in political life requires the ability to make choices based on publicly available information and to communicate one’s political agenda as a candidate in elections.
No EU Member State that has accepted (typically ratified) the CRPD entered either a reservation or declaration to Article 9, meaning that all have agreed to its provisions in full.
In examining the relationship between accessibility and political participation, the CRPD Committee has highlighted many of the issues reflected in these indicators, including the accessibility of buildings and the physical environment, of information and of the materials and processes associated with political participation. For example, the committee observed that the right to participate in political and public life cannot be effectively and equally exercised if governments “fail to ensure that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use” and emphasised the importance of ensuring accessibility of “political meetings and materials used by and produced by political parties or individual candidates participating in the public elections.” Once elected as an official, a person with disabilities “must have equal opportunities to carry that office out in a fully accessible environment.”