Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah Ann Lynch
National Disability Conference
December 6, 2019, 10:00 AM
National Library Conference Room
Thank you, Ganesh Singh for the introduction.
Members of the Council –
Ladies and Gentlemen –
I am honored to speak with you this morning about a subject that is near to our values as Americans. Inclusivity of all persons in the democratic process, regardless of their race, gender, or disability.
I want to especially thank the chairman, Mr. Cecil Morris, and Mr. David Hamilton of the International Republican Institute for leading the organization and support of this event today really for the events that are taking place all week. We have seen good television coverage of your activities highlighting International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and your commitment to inclusion should be applauded.
The right to vote is a fundamental form of enfranchisement in a democracy. But exercising the right to vote requires access. In Guyana, access is not always easy for persons with disabilities.
In my discussions with some of you, I have come to realize some specific measures that can make voting more accessible.
- Options for blind or visually impaired Guyanese to vote privately and independently,
- Special instructions for voters who are deaf or hard-of-hearing,
- Ramps and slip resistant surfaces for the physically impaired.
All of these steps and more should be taken to ensure that people with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote.
I congratulate you and the Council for having the foresight and determination to develop voter access recommendations for GECOM. As the U.S. Secretary of State has said, the U.S. government remains firmly committed to upholding the universal rights and fundamental freedoms of the more than one billion people living with disabilities worldwide. We want all people – including persons with disabilities – to have the knowledge, skills, and opportunity to pursue their aspirations, develop their capabilities, compete, and succeed in the 21st century.
As important as voting is, voting without civic action is a weak form of democracy. It is your work as advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities that is the real yardstick of a healthy democracy in Guyana. Your commitment to advocacy and voter education gives all of Guyana’s people the opportunity to participate in truly historic elections.