Political parties are distinct from the state and, as such, the provisions of the CRPD are not directly applicable. However, they may fall under the broader responsibility of State Parties to the CRPD to create a legal environment which promotes conformity with the convention. Indeed, Article 29 calls on states “to promote actively an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public affairs […] on an equal basis with others”, which would encompass accessible campaign materials. In addition, the European Commission’s proposal for a regulation on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations sets out in Article 3 that to apply to register its statutes as a European political party with the European Parliament, a political alliance “must observe, in particular in its programme and in its activities, and through those of its members, the values on which the European Union is founded, namely respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights”.
This indicator looks at whether political parties participating in elections to the European Parliament have committed themselves to providing their campaign material in accessible formats, for example easy to read or formats accessible for persons with sensory impairments. The results reflect the particular characteristics of the European Parliament elections. Political groups in the European Parliament do not campaign as such: national political parties campaign under the coordination of their pan-European umbrella organisations (or ‘Euro-parties’).
There are 13 such parties identified in the official European Parliament list of grants to political parties at European level. The FRA contacted each party in January 2014 to ask whether their manifesto, charter, website and information on candidates would be provided in accessible formats; eight responded. Of the eight that responded, half – including the Party of European Socialists, the European Green Party, the European Free Alliance, the European Democratic Party and the European Christian Political Movement – indicated that they were still in the process of preparing their 2014 campaign material.
The analysis indicates that commitments by the Euro-parties to provide information in formats accessible for persons with disabilities have been closely linked to campaigns by disabled persons’ organisations. In June 2013, a meeting between the European Disability Forum and the leaders of the political groups in the European Parliament resulted in a declaration in which the European People’s Party, Socialists & Democrats, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Greens/European Free Alliance and the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left groups pledged to “make every effort to ensure the accessibility of their documents and information, with particular emphasis on their website. We call on electoral authorities in the Member States to remove all obstacles to the accessibility of EP elections”.
Similarly, the European Union of the Deaf organised a campaign in November 2013 for more accessible political parties’ websites for deaf people. Thirty-two MEPs from the EPP, S&D, ALDE, GUE/NGL and Non-Inscrits groups signed the manifesto.
The FRA’s data collection did not provide, however, specific detailed information regarding the information the parties intended to provide in accessible formats for the 2014 European Parliament elections or which alternative formats they would employ.