ELECTIONS will be made more accessible for people with disabilities, the Government has announced.
A list of recommended actions to help deliver on this commitment have been published, following a consultation which received over 250 responses from organisations and voters living with a broad range of disabilities.
97% of respondents with a learning disability said that they needed assistance to cast their vote, and 90% of this group say they prefer to vote in person at a polling station.
63% of people with a mental illness responded that they did not need assistance casting their vote, and 90% of this group stated that they favour postal voting.
The evidence provided was analysed by the Cabinet Office in partnership with the Accessibility of Elections Working Group which consists of representatives from leading charities such as Royal Mencap Society, RNIB, Scope, Rethink Mental Illness, United Response, NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and organisations involved in overseeing the delivery of elections.
The Government has committed to consider:
- Examining how outreach services could be provided to make it easier for those in care homes to participate in elections
- Sending poll card information to people with disabilities electronically as well as by post, to make it easier for people with sight loss to identify their poll card
- Working with political parties to ensure manifestos and information on candidates and policies is more accessible to disabled people
- Examining the support provided to voters with sight loss in polling stations
- Changing the law to expand the list of people who can support disabled voters at the polling station
- Improving information around postal voting and proxy voting so that it is more accessible to disabled people
Minister for the Constitution Chloe Smith said: “Every voice matters and this Government is going to take action to ensure that people with disabilities have their voices heard.
“We are considering changes that will make polling stations more accessible for disabled people and support systems even better.
“This consultation has enhanced our understanding of the diverse needs of people in the UK and we are committed to building a democracy that reflects this.”
Ismail Kaji, Parliamentary Support Officer at Mencap and a Spokesperson with a learning disability, said: “The Government and other organisations need to make sure the registration process is truly accessible, for example by making sure easy read information is available and making sure staff in polling stations have the right training to know how to help.
“Not all people with a learning disability and their families know their rights when it comes to voting, so we are really happy to see that the Accessibility Working Group will be looking at how to improve awareness of this.
“If all the steps in this report are put into action then people with a learning disability will feel much more included and be able to get involved with the political system which affects so much of our lives too.”
Peter Stanyon, Chief Executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said: “We and our members are fully supportive of any work that improves accessibility for the entire electorate, including voters with disabilities.
“Election teams take these issues seriously and will be working hard during local reviews to identify and eliminate as many barriers as possible. The AEA will do all that it can to support them throughout the process.”
Marie Chadwick, RNIB Campaigns Officer, said: “RNIB welcomes the Cabinet Office’s commitment to making voting more accessible.
“For too long, blind and partially sighted people have been denied the right to vote independently and in secret. These improvements are an important first step to ensuring every voter can have their say at election time.
“We look forward to working with the Cabinet Office to make these recommendations a reality, and will continue to be a critical friend to them to make sure democracy works for everyone.”