USAID Enhances Voter Accessibility

The USAID has extended its support to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) to host a workshop on accessibility at polling places.

USAID believes voting is for every legally aged person no matter their physical appearance or circumstance, and the workshop will enhance access for people living with disabilities (PLWDs) in PNG this coming national election.

The workshop empowered people living with disabilities to engage in the national election through conducting polling place assessments and developing reports on the findings.

Participants learned how to evaluate the accessibility of polling by checking for accessibility aids such as magnifying plastic for low-vision voters and large pens to assist voters without fine motor function. Participants also learned how to assess and prioritize mobility for wheelchair access.

Danny Ten, a training participant and person living with disabilities, said, “We do not want to be put aside any longer. I am proud to be part of the first batch of election observers supporting people with disabilities.”

As part of his first official trip to PNG, USAID Mission Director for the Philippines, Pacific Islands, and Mongolia Ryan Washburn joined the workshop to congratulate participants and hand out completion certificates.

“Like everyone else, people living with disabilities are affected by the decisions of their elected officials,” said Mission Director Washburn. “We are honored to support these young people to mobilize their community for this fundamental right.”

The PWDs organization will analyze the data that workshop participants collect and hold a follow-up workshop after the election to create an advocacy action plan with recommendations to the PNG Electoral Commission and other government agencies.

“This is a perfect example of how civic awareness workshops spark ideas from participants to continue their engagement to create large-scale changes in communities,” said Paul Rowland, IFES Country Director, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

The workshop is a follow-on activity from a USAID- supported program aimed at Engaging a New Generation for Accessible Governance and Elections (ENGAGE).

The ENGAGE program is a political leadership curriculum for young persons with disabilities and is valuable training that gives opportunities to marginalized youth with disabilities.

Carol Kidu