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Serious deficiencies in accessibility - polling stations were not accessible for wheelchairs

At the request of Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen, two officials from the Office of the Ombudsman performed unannounced inspections at the polling stations of eight municipalities in the region of Southern Finland during the European election day on 26 May. The purpose of the inspections was to determine the accessibility of polling stations, the possibilities for inclusion of persons with disabilities, and the realisation of the secrecy of the polls. One of the official conducting the inspection used a wheelchair.

Nearly all of the polling stations had deficiencies in the accessibility of the polling facilities or the route leading to them. The inspection also revealed that the lack of accessible polling booths or facilities could jeopardise the secrecy of the polls. 

Further action 

The Parliamentary Ombudsman decided to launch own-initiative investigations on the deficiencies observed in four municipalities with regard to the accessibility and the realisation of the secrecy of polls for persons with disabilities. 

The Parliamentary Ombudsman also decided to inform the inspected municipalities and their central municipal election boards of the observations stated in the inspection report on the visibility of signage at the polling stations, deficiencies in accessibility and the realisation of the secrecy of the polls.

One of the special tasks assigned to the Parliamentary Ombudsman is the promotion, protection and monitoring of the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities. This task is based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by Finland. This is why during inspections special attention is paid on accessibility and the possibilities for inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Inspection Report No. 2657/2019 has been published (in Finnish) online at www.oikeusasiamies.fi. 

For more information, please contact Senior Legal Adviser Juha-Pekka Konttinen on +358 (0)9 432 3338.