Mabini Dialogue Puts Spotlight on Voting Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Mr. John Paul Cruz during his lecture on voting rights of persons with disabilities

To highlight the voting rights of persons with disabilities, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) held the Mabini Dialogue Accessibility of Electoral Systems for Voters with Disabilities at the Ambassador Benedicto Room of the Carlos P. Romulo Library, DFA, on 24 February 2016 with Mr. John Paul Cruz, Senior Analyst and Research Fellow of the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communications Technology (G3ICT), as the guest speaker.

Mr. Cruz shared his experiences as a person with disability (PWD) and challenged society to change its perspectives on what constitutes disability. He stressed that disability should not be viewed as similar to biological limitations but must be understood in relation to human interaction to the physical, social, and institutional environment.  A differently abled individual could function normally when the environment is capacitated to empower that individual.  Capacitating the environment requires setting up physical, social, and institutional structures that assist PWDs to achieve their maximum level of independence as contributing members of society.

In the coming elections, Mr. Cruz expressed hoped that the government would assist PWDs in exercising their right to suffrage by reinforcing the election process with enabling institutional structures and infrastructures such as special ramps for wheelchairs and the use of PWD-friendly malls as voting precincts.

In the open forum, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) representative Atty. Jennifer Felipe informed the audience that COMELEC would set up special registration areas for PWDs as well as establish a PWD committee that would undertake accessibility audit of public schools.

In his closing statement, Mr. Cruz said that PWDs are the largest minority group in the country and it is of utmost importance that proper assistance be given to PWDs to enable them to function as normally as any other person, particularly in exercising their right to suffrage.

Ms. Dey Bolos (left) of the Institute’s Language Programs Section provides sign language interpretation for PWD participants.