Voting made easier for people with disabilities

    More people with disabilities should be able to vote in this
    general election than ever before but parties have not done enough
    to make their manifestos accessible, according to campaigners.

    Disability organisations say they expect voting to be more
    accessible this year thanks to changes made under the
    Representation of the People Act 2000.

    Tom Berry, national campaigns officer for learning difficulties
    charity Mencap, said the act had strengthened people’s right to
    help while voting, and welcomed the move to put logos on ballot
    papers which help to identify parties.

    But he said the parties themselves needed to engage better with
    the estimated 1.4 million people with learning difficulties in the

    “We would like to see candidates using materials, posters and
    leaflets with large fonts and more images,” he said.

    Learning difficulty charity The Elfrida Society has complained
    that too many party political manifestos used jargon, long words
    and text too small to read. Manifestos produced by the Liberal
    Democrats and Green Party were praised for larger text, headings
    and easily understood messages.

    The Royal National Institute for the Blind has welcomed the use,
    for the first time, of a template to assist blind and partially
    sighted people to cast their vote.

    “It is the first time blind and partially sighted people will be
    able to vote independently,” said a spokesperson. But he said there
    were still issues of accessibility around postal voting and party

    The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) is backing the Polls
    Apart campaign, which encourages voters and candidates to check out
    the accessibility of their polling station. Their findings will be
    published in July.

    “If a candidate makes their material accessible, but the polling
    station is not, or vice-versa, then democracy isn’t working,” said
    a DRC spokesperson.

    Scope, the cerebral palsy charity, is co-ordinating the Polls
    Apart survey. Their survey of 1,200 polling stations during the
    1997 election found 94 per cent had obstacles which could have
    prevented a disabled person from voting.

    The Representation of the People Act 2000 allowed people with
    disabilities to have help from a carer or friend while voting and
    demanded provision of large print ballot papers at polling
    stations. It also allowed voters to vote by post, without having to
    give a reason.

    Volunteers to help in the Polls Apart survey visit

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