Annual Discussion on HR and Persons with Disabilities
Check against delivery
Geneva, 1 March 2012
Statement by Austria
Thank you, Mme President.
First of all, let me thank the OHCHR for organizing this panel as well as the panelists for their comprehensive and valuable contributions. We consider this panel a useful tool in order to raise awareness of the challenges that persons with disabilities continue to face in the exercise of their political rights as well as to exchange good practices and measures in this regard.
To achieve full inclusion, an accessible, barrier-free physical and social environment is necessary. In addition, we have to ensure that the provisions of the CRPD are fully implemented at all levels. One of the core principles of the Convention is to guarantee political rights to persons with disabilities and to ensure that they enjoy these rights on an equal basis with others. However, still today persons with disabilities are too often amongst the most marginalised within society.
In Austria we have taken several measures to ensure that persons with disabilities participate in political and public life. First of all, we believe that – as a matter of equality and non-discrimination – there cannot be any restrictions or limitations on the right of persons with disabilities to vote and to be elected; these rights are therefore guaranteed by our constitution to everyone.
Secondly, with regard to accessible elections, gradual improvements were made in our country. Voters who cannot reach a polling station now have the possibility to be visited by a mobile election commission to cast their vote. In larger medical institutions and nursing homes, separate polling stations are set up. Since 2007 there is also the option of postal voting and recently persons with disabilities have the option that a voting card sent to them automatically before every election.
Furthermore, every local authority should have at least one polling station with barrier-free access.
Thirdly, we consider the consultation and involvement of persons with disabilities and their organisations in decision-making processes, including those related to the development of legislation and policies, as founding principles of our national disability agenda. In this context, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Austria is in the process of finalising its first National Action Plan for persons with disabilities for the period 2012-2020. The plan will be adopted during this year and focuses on eight main areas, including protection against discrimination, independent living, accessibility, education and employment.
Before concluding, let me ask two questions to the panellists:
First, apart from laws and regulations, which are in your view the main challenges that still prevent the equal and effective participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life?
Second, which role do you see for human rights mechanisms, including the UPR and Treaty Bodies in promoting the participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life?
I thank you.