Participation of PWDs in elections
Persons with disability (PWDs) are as eager to vote as anyone else, and, to a large extent, were able to do so in the last two elections. This was the main finding of surveys by Social Weather Stations on the participation of PWDs—people with impaired mobility, hearing/speech, or vision—in the elections of 2010 and 2013, as presented at a postelection summit of Fully Abled Nation (FAN) on Oct. 14 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. FAN is a program, supported by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), that aims to raise the election participation of PWDs.
Nine of every 10 adult Filipinos in general, disabled or not, say that PWDs have the right to vote, like anyone else. Eight of 10 PWDs say their votes have a big influence in determining the kind of government we have, and that elections are a good way of making government pay attention to what the people think. These views have been very steady over time.
Three of every four PWDs are registered to vote, versus nine of every 10 adult Filipinos. But the 2013 voting turnout rate of PWDs was a very good 72 percent, almost as high as the official turnout rate of 75 percent among all voters. The main reasons for not voting are immobility (26 percent), lack of a companion (16 percent), being sick/bedridden (11 percent), not finding their name in the voters’ list (9 percent), not having someone to shade/read their ballot (6 percent), and being ashamed to vote (6 percent). Since virtually all public schools are built a few steps above ground, to combat flooding, ramps are needed even for one-floor polling places. Handrails matter, even to go up only two or three steps.
Three of every four PWDs knew their precinct even before going to the polling place. Four or five of every 10 brought a list of candidates to vote for.
Only half saw a voter-assistance desk of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV). Only 6 percent found sign-language interpreters present in their polling place.
Only one of three found express lanes—which are intended not only for PWDs but also for senior citizens and pregnant women, who are handicapped but not disabled.
Half of the PWDs said they were helped to go ahead in line; their median waiting time was 15 minutes. Those helped to shade their ballots were 54 percent of the visually impaired, 38 percent of the hearing/speech impaired, and 25 percent of the ortho impaired. Three-fourths of the time, the ones who helped them were their relatives.
Four of every five adults said that, if they had a disabled relative, they would help her/him to register and to vote. On the other hand, only slight majorities of adults said that they would help a PWD-relative in case she/he wanted to be an observer in counting the votes or to be a Namfrel/PPCRV volunteer.
PWDs generally don’t want to have exclusive voting precincts, since these would (a) be farther away from their homes, costing more for transport for them plus companions, and (b) tend to expose their voting preferences to the politicians.
The surveys found that PWDs who knew the Magna Carta at least partially and sufficiently were only 19 percent in 2011, but grew to 22 percent in 2013. Adults with the same degree of knowledge were only 33 percent in 2011, and grew to 41 percent in 2013.
(The Magna Carta for PWDs, Republic Act 7277 of 1992, identifies the rights and privileges of PWDs, including employment, education, health, auxiliary social services, accessibility, and political and civil rights. It provides that a PWD-voter shall be allowed to be assisted by a person of his choice, who shall prepare the ballot for the PWD inside the voting booth, and be bound under oath to fill it out strictly as instructed by the voter, and not to reveal its contents; violation of this provision is an election offense. RA 7277 was strengthened by RA 9442 of 2004, granting PWDs the same discounts as senior citizens, and penalizing verbal/non-verbal ridicule and vilification of PWDs.)
The PWDs surveyed in 2011 who said that the system of voting had improved in the 2010 election were 69 percent. Those surveyed in 2013 who said that the system had improved in the last election were 77 percent.
Among the PWDs who voted, net satisfaction (i.e., percent satisfied minus percent dissatisfied) with the Commission on Elections’ overall performance rose from +51 (“very good”) in 2011 to +72 (“excellent”) in 2013. On voter registration, their rating went from +67 in 2011 to +72 in 2013. On voter identification on election day, it went from +61 in 2011 to +70 in 2013. On special lanes for PWDs, it went from +45 (“good”) in 2011 to +54 in 2013.
* * *
In December 2011, SWS was commissioned by AusAID to survey 1,200 PWDs nationwide about their participation in the 2010 presidential election. The PWDs were from a random sample of 240 barangays nationwide. Then, last June 28 to July 4, SWS surveyed the same panel of PWDs about the 2013 midterm elections. SWS also did two national surveys of 1,200 adults, in December 2011 and June 2013, in the same municipalities as the panel of PWDs.
Aside from (and perhaps because of) their impairments, PWDs suffer other disadvantages. Two of every five PWDs are aged 55 and up, compared to only one of every five Filipino adults. Only half are married or partnered, compared to three-fourths of adults. And 41 percent did not finish elementary school, compared to 17 percent of adults.
* * *
Contact SWS: or email@example.com.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.