The Government has announced its plans to ensure accessible elections for disabled people.
In September 2017, the Cabinet Office launched a Call for Evidence, asking people with disabilities and mental health issues for their views on, and experience of the voting process. It aimed to:
- Enhance the Government’s understanding of the experiences of disabled
people in registering to vote and casting their vote.
- Identify whether current processes to support disabled people were sufficient.
- Identify examples of good practice provided to disabled people at elections.
The Call for Evidence was open for 10 weeks with accessible versions provided in large print, Easy Read and British Sign Language (BSL) formats.
In total 256 responses were received, including comments from individuals, organisations, charities, NHS Foundation Trusts, sector representative bodies and local authority election teams.
The Government has produced a document setting out the main findings. This includes actions to ensure accessible elections for disabled people in the future. These actions were produced with the Accessibility of Elections Working Group which includes representatives from organisations acting on behalf of disabled people and from bodies that conduct elections and referendums.
Out of the 256 responses, most were from:
- People with learning disabilities.
- Those affected by mental illness.
- Wheelchair users.
- People affected by sight loss.
The majority of respondents were people with a learning disability, with 106 responses, followed by people with mental health issues.
Mencap has responded to the announcement. Ismail Kaji, Parliamentary Support Officer at Mencap and a spokesperson with a learning disability says, 'We are very pleased to see the Government’s response to the consultation on improving access to elections and the positive actions they have agreed to take forward.
'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.'