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U.S. Committed to Ensuring Full Participation of Persons With Disabilities in Public Life
March 1, 2012

Human Rights Council
OHCHR Report on Participation in Political and Public Life of Persons with Disabilities
U.S. Statement

The following statement was submitted for the record of the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council

The United States welcomes the submission of the thematic study by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which highlights important issues affecting participation in political and public life by persons with disabilities.  The United States is committed to ensuring that persons with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate in political and public affairs, and has a robust legislative framework to support full enjoyment of these rights.

Multiple U.S. laws protect the rights to political participation for persons with disabilities.

From the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984, through the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (known as the “Motor Voter Act”), the Help America Vote Act (“HAVA”) of 2002, and the foundational antidiscrimination protections offered by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the U.S. has adopted a comprehensive approach to making political participation accessible.

The U.S. government provides technical assistance to and monitors local governments to ensure the full realization of political rights of persons with disabilities and takes strong enforcement actions when individuals are denied their rights.  The federal government also works collaboratively with civil society to provide training and tools so that consumers and advocates can monitor local governmental actions and contribute to ensuring that local governmental entities fully recognize the rights of persons with disabilities.

U.S. laws require the physical accessibility of all venues for civic participation, including polling places.  The process of casting ballots also must be accessible.

Our laws require that public entities afford all persons effective communication, so that persons with disabilities can fully participate in public affairs without barriers.  U.S. laws further mandate that election officials and other governmental workers should be trained in the electoral process and the rights of persons with disabilities so that they can assist individuals with all types of disabilities, including psycho-social, sensory, developmental, and physical, to participate in the electoral process.

Since 1999, the Justice Department’s Project Civic Access has signed agreements with 193 local governments throughout the country to ensure full access to civic life for over 4 million persons with disabilities.

These agreements, which were pursued after problems with compliance were raised, recognize that non-discriminatory access to public programs and facilities is a civil right, and that individuals with disabilities must have the opportunity to participate in local government programs, services and activities on an equal basis with others.

In conclusion, the United States remains deeply committed to ensuring that all individuals with disabilities have the opportunity for effective and full participation in all aspects of political and public life.  We welcome the opportunity to discuss how the international community can better collaborate to assist States in fulfilling their obligations to promote, protect and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities in the arena of political and public life.