MANILA, Philippines—A campaign to facilitate voting for persons with disabilities will be launched on Wednesday to ensure that more handicapped voters would troop to the polls in next year’s midterm elections.
Called Fully Abled Nation, it seeks to reverse the decline in the number of PWDs who participate in electoral exercises and to make sure there are adequate voting facilities for them.
Fully Abled Nation is spearheaded by The Asia Foundation and supported by the Australian Agency for International Development.
The campaign is part of a three-year Disability-Inclusive Elections Program that seeks to increase voter awareness among PWDs and strengthen the capabilities of disability peoples’ organizations and related nongovernment organizations.
The groups behind Fully Abled Nation quoted in a statement a recent Social Weather Stations survey that recorded a lower turnout of PWDs votes in 2010 compared to 2007. Only 54 percent of them voted in the 2010 polls, a decline from the 60-percent voter turnout posted in 2007.
Commission on Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said measures should be taken to ensure the availability of accessible polling stations, ballots printed in Braille, sign-language interpreters, a party-list representative for PWDs and a PWD commissioner in the Comelec.
Sarmiento also said lawmakers should be compelled to help PWDs and partnerships should be forged with international and regional groups to increase support for PWDs. Sarmiento is the Comelec’s “focal person” in the Inter-Agency and NGO Network in Empowering.
The projects under Fully Abled Nation include a drive to assess the situation of PWDs, focus group discussions, dedicated surveys and an electoral reform project to be piloted in Bohol. Also to be launched is a disability-inclusive volunteer management system in Cebu.
The Fully Abled Nation launch, to be hosted by Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Twedell and The Asia Foundation acting country representative Ky Johnson, will be attended by PWD groups and advocates from the academe, international donor organizations and government agencies.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes will serve as guest speakers.