The pressing issue of democratic rights and participation for young people with disabilities has taken center stage in a new Study Report. The report, conducted by a consortium of organizations including KMOP, Fundación Manos Tendidas, Aproximar, Kūrybinės ateities idėjos, and ALDA, is part of the European project “Extraordinary Citizens.” This initiative, dedicated to enhancing the democratic participation of young people with intellectual and physical disabilities, has unveiled critical insights into the current landscape and the road ahead.
The comprehensive Study Report delves into the legal, practical, and societal dimensions of democratic rights for young people with intellectual and physical disabilities. It was carried out through a multi-faceted approach, including legal analysis, open debates involving disabled individuals, social workers, NGOs representatives, and family members, and a showcase of existing initiatives that foster active citizenship among this demographic.
One of the most significant findings of the analysis was the disparity between theoretical democratic rights and their practical application across partner countries. Notably, election-related information was often inaccessible for individuals with different disabilities, and governmental measures fell short of guaranteeing their democratic rights.
The open debates, held across Greece, Lithuania, Spain, France, and Portugal, highlighted the numerous challenges disabled individuals face when exercising their democratic rights. Limited physical access to polling stations, uneven political, cultural, and economic capital, and inadequate information dissemination were identified as key hurdles. Moreover, the lack of suitable support systems and the influence of families posed additional barriers to democratic engagement.
The Study Report emphasizes that the complex challenges encountered by disabled individuals necessitate targeted solutions. It calls for heightened awareness campaigns, tailored events, and improved information dissemination to empower disabled individuals. Diversification of voting methods and representation through disabled political representatives are proposed to enhance inclusivity. Importantly, ongoing adaptation of national legislation is underscored as pivotal for progress.
Disabled people’s organizations were identified as crucial actors in upholding the democratic rights of individuals with disabilities. These organizations bridge the gap between disabled individuals, civil society, and authorities, amplifying the voices of the disabled community and promoting active engagement.
The Study Report is a significant step forward in promoting the democratic engagement of young people with disabilities. It not only empowers disabled individuals to voice their opinions but also equips stakeholders and decision-makers with crucial information to shape future strategies and policies at local, national, and European levels.
To access the full Study Report, click HERE.