Accessible Elections in Albania.

The Albanian Blind Association (ABA) has put all its efforts in order to fulfil the constitutional right to vote for blind and partially sighted voters throughout Albania, in accordance with the international framework on Equal Opportunities and specifically to put in practice one of the articles of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, already signed by the Parliament of Albania “to ensure full participation of people with disabilities” also in the elections process.

In general, the actions taken have managed to address the above objective, through a realistic approach towards the complex problem of compiling complete training material on the participation of Albanian blind people in public and political life through the exercise of the right to vote as voters, and also being elected, drafting visually impaired voter’s lists as per their administrative units and informing and increasing the participation of blind and visually impaired voters in national elections through awareness raising and local training. ABA established its national network, all over the country, to compile accurate lists; it has been effective in getting support for its activities among the memberships of ABA’s branches to realize training at all levels, and has created a national team of trainers from many administrative centres who have built up the capacities of visually impaired voters locally and created quality training materials in Braille, audio and normal writing formats, used by the visually impaired to give and to receive training on election procedures and specific voting techniques.

ABA has worked in close collaboration with the National Rehabilitation Centre for the Blind (QKRV) and its branches in 33 cities of Albania, more specifically with local trainees and assistants, volunteers and guides, to successfully identify and notify over 1275 blind and partially sighted voters throughout the country who have been informed, trained, and motivated to participate in national elections. Thanks to this successful collaboration, these blind and partially sighted voters have been trained also to realize their right to vote through their special secret ballot in the elections in the normal manner in accordance with special devices.

The activities have achieved a satisfactory level of visibility and media coverage for their main objective, as witnessed by the online and print media reports, especially in Tirana and also of social media used for by ABA such as facebook. The effort to empower blind and partially sighted voters in Albania to participate as independent individuals in the National Elections and to be able to vote secretly and independently as full citizens will continue in the next local and general election processes and will result in significant improvements of exercising the constitutional right to vote for visually impaired voters. Also, voting accessibility measures, fair procedures and adapted voting materials are the basic pre-preconditions that enable blind and partially sighted persons to enjoy full rights on an equal basis with others.

By The Albanian Blind Association, ABA