1.THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND BE ELECTED.
- Do visually impaired (hereafter VI) people suffer any restrictions to their rights to vote and/or to be elected? If yes, give details.
- During election campaigns what measures are taken to ensure that VI people are ensured full autonomy concerning the availability of information distributed by candidates, access to pre-electoral meetings, access to different campaign media?
Are special measures put in place to ensure that polling stations are accessible to VI people?
There are no accessibility measures specifically aimed at blind and partially sighted people.
Accessibility measures are put in place, though, regarding architectural barriers. Laws. no. 15/1991, 104/1992, 17/2003, 22/2006, 46/2009 and 118/1971 contain, among other things, regulations on removal of architectural barriers in places where the right to vote is exercised.
The furnishings in the room where voting booths are located must be arranged to allow voters with limited mobility to read the poster containing the list of candidates, to vote in complete secrecy, as well as to carry out the functions of poll clerk or candidate-list representative and assist, if so they choose, to operations carried out. At least one voting booth must be prepared to allow easy access for voters and a supplementary, possibly folding, writing worktop about eighty centimetres high must be provided, or a table fitted with guards ensuring the same secrecy.
Polling stations must be accessible, reachable through accessible routes. Accessibility must be signalled outside the buildings used as polling stations, by means of the wheelchair symbol.
Municipalities must take a census of the barriers in the buildings used as polling stations and must act accordingly in order to avoid the same kind of problems in the future. On the latter aspect, legislation does not specify whether the intervention must necessarily include removing architectural barriers or choosing another location that is accessible.
Within polling stations, what measures are taken to ensure that VI people can exercise their rights in an autonomous and confidential manner?
Voters who are blind or severely visually impaired (as well as hand amputees or people unable to use their hands) upon presentation of a medical certificate are entitled to third-party assistance, i.e. they are allowed to be assisted by a duly registered voter of their choice.
Persons whose illness or disability prevent them from leaving their residence are entitled to domiciliary vote.
- In the case of proportional elections (by lists of candidates), what measures are taken to ensure that VI people can exercise their rights in an autonomous and confidential manner?
Are their measures in place to assist VI people in the polling booths and when casting their vote in the urns?
Voters who are blind or severely visually impaired (as well as hand amputees or persons unable to use their hands) are entitled, upon presentation of a medical certificate, to third-party assistance, i.e. they are allowed to be assisted by a person of their choice who is duly registered to vote in any municipality of the Italian Republic.
The above voters are not required to present a medical certificate if, according to Law 17/2003, at their request and with supporting documentation, the relevant municipality office has included in their voting card a note certifying the right to third-party assistance by displaying a suitable symbol or code, in compliance with the provisions in force concerning personal privacy.
Poll clerks are not allowed to assist blind and partially sighted voters when casting their vote in the booth.
- Are voting machines in place in your country? If yes, please detail how these are made accessible to VI people.
2. PARTICIPATION IN NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS CONCERNED WITH THE PUBLIC AND POLITICAL LIFE OF THE COUNTRY, AND IN THE ACTIVITIES AND ADMINISTRATION OF POLITICAL PARTIES.
- Can VI people in your country participate in an unrestricted manner in political parties, unions, public and political organisations and associations?
- Are their VI people in who have been elected to political, trade-union or associative office in your country?
YES. There have been e.g. a few blind people elected to be Members of Parliament, mayors, town councillors, trade unionists.
Do VI people in your country have unrestricted access to administrative office, including at top-level?
YES. According to article 1 of Law no. 120 of 28 March 1991(Norms in favour of blind people for admission to competitive examinations as well as to managerial career in public administration and public bodies the school)“the status of blind person mentioned in the first paragraph of Article 6 of Law no. 482 of 2 April 1968, does not in itself imply lack of the fitness requirement for access to public office, including the Ordinary, Military, Administrative and Accounting Judiciary, as well as for admission to competitive examinations for access to higher functional or professional positions including in the capacity of director, unless the competitive examination announcement mentions in an explicit, reasoned way that this status involves unfitness for the specific tasks related to the occupation or job profile for which the competitive examination is announced.”
There are, in fact, a few blind people working in the public administration.
3. FORMING AND JOINING ORGANISATIONS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.
Please give an overview of the number/type of associations or organisations representing VI people in your country.
Although there are several associations aimed to represent or help VI people, the Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted (Unione Italiana dei Ciechi e degli Ipovedenti ONLUS – UIC) is the most important association of blind people in Italy. UIC, which was founded in 1920, has now a significant number of members and is widespread throughout the country with a head office in Rome, a branch in each regional capital city and provincial capital city, as well as a sub-office in the main cities. The Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted is entrusted by law (Legislative decree 1047/1947 and Presidential Decree of 21/12/1978) with the representation and protection of the human and fundamental rights of visually impaired people towards public administrations and such responsibility is reflected in its Constitution. UIC is consequently entitled to receive public funding aimed to providing services to blind people.
In fact, in order to reach its objectives and to make up for the lack of adequate social services provided by the State and public bodies, UIC created a number of relevant services and entities, some of which have autonomous administration, including the National Talking Book Centre, the Italian Technical Aids Centre, IRIFOR (the Institute for Research, Training and Rehabilitation), UNIVOC (the Italian Union of Volunteers for the Blind,) as well as a holiday and rehabilitation centre. UIC also established the Italian branch of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, and works in close cooperation with the National Federation of Institutions for the Blind and the National Library for the Blind.
Among other smaller associations, the following should be mentioned: the National Association of Persons Without Sight and Partially Sighted Persons (Associazione Nazionale Privi della Vista ed Ipovedenti - ANPVI), the Association of Persons with Visual Disabilities (Associazione Disabili Visivi – ADV), the Italian Association of the War-Blinded (Associazione Italiana Ciechi di Guerra - AICG), the National Association of Persons with Low Vision (Associazione Nazionale Subvedenti – ANS), the Catholic Association of the Blind (Movimento Apostolico Ciechi).
There are also associations that bring together people with special visual pathologies: e.g. the Italian Federation of Retinitis Pigmentosa Associations (Federazione Italiana Associazioni Retinite Pigmentosa – FIARP), the Italian Federation for combating retinal dystrophies (Retina Italia ONLUS) and the Association of Italians with Achromatopsia (Associazione Acromati Italiani).
- What is the role played by these associations in representing VI people?
The Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted is the only association entrusted by law (Legislative decree 1047/1947 and Presidential Decree of 21/12/1978) with the representation and protection of the human and fundamental rights of visually impaired people towards public administrations and such responsibility is reflected in its Constitution. UIC is entitled to receive public funding aimed to providing services to visually impaired people, and is supervised by the Court of Auditors. UIC board of statutory auditors includes official representatives from the Council Presidency, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Policy, and the Ministry of Culture.
How are VI people included in associations representing them?
VI people who apply to become members of an association of the blind of their choice are generally included based on the Constitution of such association and, once they have been accepted, they participate in its activities in a democratic way.
As far as the Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted is concerned, Article 6 "Categories of membership" of the UIC Constitution reads as follows:
"The Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted includes four membership categories: ordinary members, guardian members, supporting members and honorary members:
a) ordinary members are citizens who are totally blind, partially blind or partially sighted (Articles 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of Law 3.4.2001, no. 138);
b) guardian members are the legal representatives of minors or of the adults for whom the court ruled the appointment of a guardian;
c) supporting members are all sighted citizens who financially contribute to the activity of the Union or who - for various reasons - offer their services free of charge in favour of the Union;
d) honorary members are those who render special services to the organization and to the blind and partially sighted, or those who - through their activities in the social, cultural and scientific fields - bring prestige to the group of people with visual disabilities.
2. Also foreign blind and partially sighted people who are residents in Italy may be members of the Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted."
The admission of ordinary, supporting or guardian members must be approved by the Board of the relevant Provincial Branch according to the would-be member's place of residence.
Those who wish to register as ordinary or guardian members must submit an application including personal details, citizenship, residence, marital and family status. Two photographs and a copy of the report of the Sanitary Commission for eye control/investigation or of the certificate issued by an ophthalmologist of the National Health Service, or by other similar service or a certified copy of the blindness pension card must be enclosed. It is without prejudice to the right of the Branch to use at any time an ophthalmologist of confidence for the assessment of the applicant's visual acuity.
Those who wish to register as guardian members are required to enclose in the application, in addition to the above-mentioned documents relating to the minor or person unable to represent him/herself, a certification of entitlement to legal representation.
Membership is decided by the Provincial Branch Board in its meeting immediately following the date of receipt of the application, and with effect from the date of its receipt. If the Provincial Branch Board does not take action in the first meeting after the date of submission of the application, the registration becomes automatically operative.
All members have the right to participate in the association in accordance with the statutory rules and regulations, and have the duty to be in compliance with such rules and regulations, as well as with the resolutions adopted by the governing bodies. Ordinary and guardian members have also a duty to pay the membership fee. Non-payment results in automatic suspension from membership rights.
Ordinary and guardian members who are of age have the right to vote and to be elected. Guardian members cannot be elected to the office of President.
Sighted members who are of age may be elected in the Provincial Councils of local branches up to a third of the members, and in the Colleges of Auditors without limitation in number. Guardian members are not included in the calculation of 1/3.
Those who do not enjoy civil and political rights cannot stand for election.