Guide to accessibility

Any person may exercise their right to vote actively, consciously, freely and voluntarily, regardless of how they communicate it and with the means of support they require (article 3.2 of the Organic Law on the General Electoral System).

The Administration must ensure that the right to equal opportunities of persons with disabilities is respected in regard to the access to polling places and stations and their non-discrimination (article 2 of the Regulation on the basic conditions for the participation of persons with disabilities in political life and electoral processes).

There are two aspects of the accessibility of electoral processes to be borne in mind: accessibility for persons who go to the polling place to vote and accessibility for persons designated as polling stations officers.

Polling places and polling stations must be accessible.

The polling station officers will ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise their right to vote as autonomously as possible by making the reasonable adjustments as necessary.

If, during electoral processes whose responsibility falls to the General State Administration, it is established that there is no accessible public transport to the polling place, the General State Administration will provide suitable means of transport for persons with motor disabilities who so request it, free of charge, provided that there are the budgetary resources available. The competent Area Electoral Board or, directly, the corresponding Government Department or Sub-Department can be contacted for the above purpose.

Any complaints or requests regarding accessibility during the electoral period can be sent to the competent Area Electoral Board.

Central Electoral Board website

The situation of disability, declared in accordance with article 4 of Royal Legislative Decree 1/2013 of 29 November approving the revised text of the General Law on the rights of persons with disabilities and their social inclusion, is regarded as a sufficient reason to provide exemption from the obligation to be a polling station officer.

The provision of a declaration of disability, whatever the degree of disability, by the interested party will be sufficient for the Area Electoral Board to accept the reason, without it being necessary to provide a medical certificate listing the limitations preventing or hindering the performance of the functions of a polling station officer (Instruction 6/2011 of 28 April of the Central Electoral Board).

If the person does not wish to make use of this right, the Administration offers free services for deaf or hearing-impaired persons appointed as polling station officers:

1. A free sign language interpretation service for both incumbents and alternates (either Spanish sign language or, as appropriate, the sign languages of the autonomous communities).

These persons may apply to the Area Electoral Board, in writing and within seven days of the notification of their appointment, for the free services of a sign language interpreter.

The Area Electoral Board will inform the corresponding Government Department/Sub-Department of any cases in which it has been decided that the free sign language interpretation service should be provided.

The corresponding Government Sub-Department will report these cases to the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for the coordination of state-wide electoral processes and, at the same time, the State Confederation of the Deaf (CNSE) will be informed

2. A free magnetic induction loop service for deaf or hearing-impaired people (users of hearing aids for both incumbents and alternates).

These persons may apply to the Area Electoral Board, in writing and within seven days of the notification of their appointment, for the free magnetic induction loop service.

The Area Electoral Board will inform the corresponding Government Department/Sub-Department of any cases in which it has been decided that the free service should be provided and the latter will report the cases to the Ministry of the Interior and the Spanish Confederation of Families of Deaf People (FIAPAS) in order to provide these people with the service requested.

3. Also, in the case of the blind or the severely visually impaired

The Administration shall provide the necessary tools and mechanisms to enable them to exercise their duties. Likewise, the Area Electoral Board shall determine the necessary means for them to exercise their duties with due autonomy.

In the event that a voter is unable to submit this request in person at the Post Office due to an illness or disability (which must be accredited by means of a free official medical certificate), the postal vote request may be made on his/her behalf by another authorised person via notarial or consular channels by means of a document which will be drawn up individually; several voters may not be included it and an individual person may not represent more than one voter.

The competent Electoral Board will verify the concurrence of all these circumstances in each case.

The procedure is as follows:

Interested persons should contact a Notary Public, who will act, free of charge (General Council of Notaries) and provide the free official medical certificate referred to in article 72.c) of the LOREG.

The notary will travel to the voter’s place of residence, whether it be a hospital, a retirement home or the home of a relative. The same procedure used in ordinary postal voting will then be followed.

In other words: The person representing him/her may go —within the postal vote application period, from 30 May to 13 July— in person with his/her ID card and power of attorney to any Post Office and request the postal vote form.

The Post Office services will send all the documentation to the Electoral Census Office, which will record on the Census Lists that the request to vote by post has been made (and therefore VOTING IN PERSON WILL NO LONGER BE POSSIBLE) and send the following documentation to the proxy by registered post to the address indicated or, failing that, the address that appears in the Census:

  • Ballot papers and envelopes

  • the electoral census registration certificate;

  • an envelope containing the address of the corresponding polling station;

  • an explanatory sheet.

This documentation must also be collected in person by the representative, subject to proof of identity. If the person isn’t at home, he/she will have to pick it up in person at the corresponding Post Office.

1. Act naturally and respectfully.

Persons with disabilities are autonomous and independent and should be treated as such.

It should not be assumed that a person needs help, simply because he/she has a disability. If the environment is accessible, persons with disabilities can usually manage without any difficulty.

In all cases, be guided by common sense and the principle of equality and non-discrimination.

2. Ask before you help.

Ask if your assistance is necessary only if the voter with a disability appears to need it. And if the person accepts it, ask him/her how you can help specifically.

Address the person with a disability directly, not the person accompanying him/her (e.g. a trusted person, sign language interpreter, etc.), as appropriate.

3. Use common sense.

For example, start from the idea that a person in a wheelchair is a seated person and, when faced with a seated person, it is usual to bend down to be at his/her height or sit on a chair opposite.

If there is a specific incident raised by a person with a disability and you don’t know what to do, contact the person in charge of the administration of the polling place or the Area Electoral Board.

If a queue forms at voting time, it is advisable for persons with disabilities to be given preference in casting their votes.

Guide dogs and dogs providing assistance for people with disabilities shall always be admitted and not separated from the person in need, disturbed or distracted.

4. Be cautious about any physical contact.

Some people with disabilities rely on their arms to keep their balance. Taking them by the arm, even if your intention is to help, may cause them to lose their balance or frighten them because they aren’t expecting such contact.

Avoid touching wheelchairs or, as appropriate, walking sticks; persons with disabilities regard these items as part of their personal space.

5. Access to the polling station and the path to the polling station: accompaniment and information.

At the request of voters with disabilities, and only when they so request, at the entrance to the polling station, the representative of the Administration or the security forces may accompany them on the route to the corresponding desk, without pushing or touching the wheelchair, as appropriate, unless the person so requests.

If the person is visually-impaired, you can offer to hold onto his/her arm. In this case, adapt your pace to that of the visually-impaired person, taking into account the characteristics of the environment you are moving in so that he/she can walk comfortably.

In order to respond to potential requests for information and provide guidance for persons with disabilities on access to the polling place station and how to move around to get to the polling station, the advice specified in the following section should be taken into account.

6. Guidelines to facilitate communication: communicating clearly.

In relation to the deaf or hearing-impaired, it is advisable to speak from the front and not to move your head; avoid speaking to them when your back is turned or when you are bending down or writing; don’t shout and vocalise normally, in other words, speak to them with the normal pace of any conversation without having objects in your mouth or obstructing a clear view of your face; if necessary, use writing, natural gestures or call their attention with a light touch on the arm; the place should be well lit and the deaf or hearing-impaired person should not be facing the sun, as backlighting makes it difficult to see the face.

Don’t communicate with single words, as it can be misleading. Deaf people need the full content of a sentence to understand the context.

When interacting with a visually-impaired person, avoid using generic indications such as “here”, “there”, “this” and so on. In these cases, it is preferable to use more indicative expressions, such as “to your left” and “behind you”. If you want to provide information on an object, you can guide the visually-impaired person’s hand to the object that you are giving information about and tell them what it is.

If you are talking to a visually-impaired person, let them know if you are going to be absent, otherwise they may continue to address you thinking that you are still with them. Similarly, if you return, it is advisable to let them know.

Check that the person with a disability has understood what you are trying to convey to them.

7. Persons with disabilities who form part of the Polling Station.

As noted above, it is possible that a deaf or hearing impaired person (sign language user) may have been appointed to the polling station. For this purpose, a sign language interpreter service is available free of charge upon request to the competent Electoral Board, following the procedure described in the corresponding section of this guide.

Likewise, in the case of a deaf or hearing impaired person communicating by spoken language, the communication guidelines outlined in section 6 shall be taken into account. It is possible for a member of the polling station to use a means of supporting oral communication: the magnetic induction loop. It is a “support item”, a device the size of a sheet of paper that only needs to be connected to a power outlet.

Further information:

Electoral Info Website

Ministry of the Interior Website