72%, meaning 1448 of the total number of public institutions which usually host polling stations are inaccessible and only 0.89%, meaning 18, are fully accessible.  Out of 2017 public institutions assessed, 551 (27%) are partially accessible, reveals the study “Equal access for all to polling stations”. The research was commissioned by the Central Electoral Commission and UNDP Moldova and was conducted by INFONET Alliance in partnership with MOTIVATIE Association of Moldova.

The assessment covers all 2017 public institutions that host polling stations. The first audit of accessibility was conducted in 2019 when more than 600 public institutions were evaluated. In January-April 2022, the assessment included as well testing the accessibility of the premises of 1206 polling stations, by experts and people with disabilities, who reviewed the access roads, ramps, width of doors, corridors, and halls where the voting is taking place, so as the adaptation of the sanitary units.

According to the study, almost half of the halls where the voting takes place are accessible, while only 1.26% of the sanitary units have been adapted. Out of 2017 assessed public institutions, 897 are cultural facilities (houses of culture, libraries, and museums), out of which only two are accessible. Other 767 are educational institutions (kindergartens, primary schools, secondary and high schools, colleges, and universities), out of which only 14 are fully accessible, 514 are inaccessible, and the others – partially accessible.

Efimia Levinta, head of the House of Culture located in Clisova Village, Orhei district, notes that the first-hand experience of testing the accessibility made her realize the importance of the matter: “As follow-up to the exercise I was involved in, we decided jointly with the mayor’s office to build an access ramp at the House of Culture, which should be helpful to people with disabilities, older people and parents with small children. In this way we have made accessible not only the entrance to the polling station, but also to the house of culture, public library, the institution becoming an access point to host cultural and social events”.

The Central Electoral Commission’s Secretary, Alexandr Berlinschii, mentioned “The accessibility of public buildings should not be seen only as a precondition to exercise the right to vote, requiring easy access to the polling station, but also for other fundamental rights that can and should be exercised there. This task can be accomplished only through commitments and involvement of all responsible state institutions”.

“In 2022 we completed the assessment process of all polling stations across the country, which was launched in 2019. The study is a novelty for Moldova. Through its projects, UNDP will continue to support equal access for all to public space and strengthen our strategic partnership with the CEC in order to sustain inclusive, accessible and transparent electoral processes in Moldova,” noted Olesea Perean, Programme Specialist, UNDP Moldova.

During the assessment, MOTIVATIE Association of Moldova has also conducted awareness-raising events for the local public administration representatives of ten districts, depicting the accessibility criteria, national legislation, the cost estimates for the works to achieve accessibility and accurate planning of the local budget. The MOTIVATIE experts developed as well a guide for the LPAs aiming to help the mayors throughout Moldova to build or repair public buildings, so as to comply with the criteria of accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities into public life and electoral processes.

“We need to advocate for the cause, so as public authorities are aware that ensuring accessibility is essential. They need to pay attention to this matter also when planning to improve the infrastructure in their community, to plan the funds accordingly, so that the public institution’s accessibility becomes a top priority,” said Ludmila Iachim, Director of MOTIVATIE Association of Moldova.

“The next step would be to develop a national accessibility plan, allocate resources for its implementation, including for the refurbishment of local public transportation means, to be adapted for people with disabilities. We also need to raise people’s awareness and support the LPAs representatives especially from rural areas, which often have not enough means to carry out works aimed at improving accessibility of public institutions,” mentioned Victor Koroli, Executive Director of INFONET Alliance.

According to the data provided by the National Social Security Agency, at the beginning of 2021 in the Republic Moldova there were 174,500 people of disabilities, out of which 10,400 are children.

The study is part of the awareness-raising campaign “Equal access for all to polling stations”, designed to inform the population, the voters in particular, the LPAs representatives and people with disabilities about the need to ensure equal access to public buildings (school, hospital, house of culture, etc.). Free access without barriers to public institutions is not a favour but rather a condition to fully exercise the social and political rights.

The campaign was conducted by the Central Electoral Commission and UNDP Moldova, in partnership with INFONET Alliance and MOTIVATIE Association, in the framework of the UNDP Project “Enhancing democracy in Moldova through inclusive and transparent elections”, implemented with the financial support from the American People provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and from the British Embassy in Chisinau through the Good Governance Fund.

Contact for the media: Mihaela Gherasim, Expert in Communication and Civic Campaigns, UNDP Moldova, 079900902, mihaela.gherasim@undp.org

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