Home > Disability > No Voting Rights for People with Disabilities?

No Voting Rights for People with Disabilities?

Tues Jun 22

Hyun Kyu Kim

From the basic right to information on candidates to actually attempting to vote in the recent Regional Elections (2 June 2010), people with disabilities have been denied the exercise of their rights. The Korean government, which adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, is legally obligated to protect the voting rights of the disabled as mandated in article 29 of the convention. However, the requirements to ensure the equal voting rights of the disabled have faced a few issues in the recent regional elections.

The first issue is the right to learn about the candidates. According to Mr. Oh Gwang-Ho from the Korea Association for the Deaf, “On the websites of candidates, there was no information whatsoever on any place for the deaf who only know sign language.” He continued, “A little recognition for people with disabilities would bring out the voters in droves, but I feel sad about the current situation which stops the voters.”

At least three TV political ads were broadcast without adequate sign language translation. The TV broadcast for the Gyeonggi Province Debate was also shown with no sign language because it was considered to “take up too much space.”

Another problem is in regard to election materials created by candidates and distributed by the National Election Commission. These election materials serve as the backbone of information on the basis of which people vote since at least one packet is distributed to every household.

Yonhap News reported that 16% of the candidates for regional elections made no materials for the visually impaired. Less than 50% of the Candidate’s texts were put into Braille and of that amount only the material regarding the candidate’s policies for people with disabilities was in Braille. Among the many candidates, only three were shown to have made brochures that translated all of their pledges into Braille.

The problem was exacerbated further when the National Election Commission changed laws to restrict Braille editions to the same amount of pages as written print editions. Generally, Braille needs about three times more space than text. Due to these space limits, information had to be cut out. Furthermore, under the current laws, candidates have to go to each district to find a list of the visually impaired with each district having different laws over releasing such information.

Another issue is in getting to the voting polls. Instructions to get to the voting booths were in plain text without support in Braille. To counter this problem, the South Korean Government initiated “Disabilities Call-Taxi Service.” However, Medical Today reported that the average waiting time for the taxis in Seoul was between 2 to 5 hours.

To address these problems, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has started a monitoring project to maintain the compliance of article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A reported 113 personnel will monitor polling places across the nation on election days to check whether the voting rights of the disabled are adequately taken into consideration. ■

Categories: Disability
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