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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