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.
The Swedish tax authority, who is responsible for the preparation and carrying out of elections, provide VI with voting papers in Braille and print. On those voting papers the name of each political party is written. This way VI can identify the party they want to vote for and bring the right voting paper with them to the place where the elections are undertaken.
In Sweden it is also possible to reject or mark one or more persons from a particular party from the voting paper. This possibility is however not accessible to VI. Now and then we have advocated towards the tax authority to make this procedure accessible but so far no positive change is there. The tax authorities say that there for the moment is no safe procedure for making this accessible. We have, lately, seen a tendency that the tax authorities in some cases do not provide voting papers in Braille. This was the case in 2011 when the elections were repeated in two cities.
- 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?
It is not at all self-evident that parties produce their information in a format that is accessible to VI. Those of us that have computers with screen reading facilities could trace some information on the home pages for each party if their home pages are accessible in accordance with web accessibility guidelines. If those guidelines are used on the parties' home page depends on their knowledge of using such guidelines when making their home page. Some parties deliver written information when they visit people's home in order to promote votes. This information is never accessible to VI. This problem, and most others mentioned among our answers, could be avoided if the Swedish parliament could adopt a law that Would make inaccessibility illegal and therefore liable to penalty.
- Are special measures put in place to ensure that polling stations are accessible to VI people?
The officials in the polling stations do help VI so that they can vote secretly and the get help to deliver their voting paper to the officials. No other measures are taken to adapt the polling stations for VI.
- Within polling stations, what measures are taken to ensure that VI people can exercise their rights in an autonomous and confidential manner?
Answer, see reply under 1.3.
- 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?
See reply under 1.1. To stress this matter further. Everything described in this question are not accessible.
- Are their measures in place to assist VI people in the polling booths and when casting their vote in the urns?
Yes, the officials do assist, see 1.3.
- Are voting machines in place in your country? If yes, please detail how these are made accessible to VI people.
No voting machines are in place in Sweden yet. A parliamentary committee is investigating the future possibilities of carrying out electronic elections.
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?
In principle yes. Still as mentioned above information is not made accessible if you yourself do not make officials and others aware of your needs. If you have a computer with screen reading systems you could get written information from parties, unions and NGO-s in order to participate in their work. you have to describe to them how this has to be done for you which in turn means that you yourself have to know how, something that is not required for persons who can see.
Another problem that we have seen in the past is that the transport system for persons with disabilities some times are to inflexible to make it possible for VI to fulfil their duties in parties, trade unions and other NGO-s. By this we mean that the transport system will not make sure that you could arrive to meetings in due time or the time that you wish in order to fulfil your missions.
- Are their VI people in who have been elected to political, trade-union or associative office in your country?
Yes. For instance there are VI political representatives in some city parliaments and on working places some VI are elected as representatives in the trade unions. Also it is quite common that VI are office bearers in NGO-s.
Do VI people in your country have unrestricted access to administrative office, including at top-level?
In principle yes, see above about accessible information etc for more details.
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.
There is only one organisation, the Swedish association of the visually impaired, SRF, which represents VI. Then we have one charity based organisation for VI that among other things gives financial support to the branches of SRF. There is one MR-based umbrella organisation of PD where SRF is a member.
- What is the role played by these associations in representing VI people?
SRF-s main duty is to advocate for the rights of VI in accordance with CRPD. This we do through meetings, letters etc with political parties, companies, authorities ETC. The organisation for VI gives financial support to the SRF branches, arrange meetings for instance about the latest research findings in eye care ETC. They never speak for VI.
- How are VI people included in associations representing them?
VI are included as members in SRF, participating in meetings, going through member ship and advocacy trainings. They can also be elected as office bearers and delegates on all levels of SRF and hence become and act as spokespersons of SRF.