Background: The right to vote is critical to democracy. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities advocates for equal participation of people with disabilities (PWDs) in political life. This review aimed to understand legislation, experiences and practices related to participation of PWDs in electoral processes and wider political life.
Methods: Relevant electronic databases and websites were searched for published literature. Experts were contacted and reference lists were reviewed to identify unpublished literature. Included studies were written in English, French or Portuguese, focused on the political participation of PWDs in Africa and were published from 2006 onwards. One reviewer screened identified studies; two reviewers independently extracted and appraised identified sources.
Results: In total, 54 documents (mainly grey literature) were included. The documents were diverse in design and content, nine focused on the global level; the remaining documents were country specific. Although most African countries ratified important disability-focused legislation, the implementation of the legislation varies. Challenges experienced by PWDs can be broadly categorised into three groups: (i) lack of education and financial resources; (ii) stigma and negative social attitudes; (iii) inaccessible physical infrastructure. The impact of strategies to support inclusive electoral and political processes remains unclear, the theory of change underpinning these strategies was generally poorly articulated and the effect of tested interventions was not reported using quantifiable methods. Most of the sources identified were of low quality.
Conclusions: Limitations of the literature identified suggest an urgent need to better evaluate and document the programmes aiming to improve political participation of PWDs in low- and middle-income settings.