Scope: two-thirds of polling stations unfit for disabled voter

Disabled people are being denied the right to vote because of poor accessibility to polling stations, Scope has revealed. The charity found that 67%...

Disabled people in the UK are being denied the right to vote because of poor accessibility to polling stations, Scope has revealed.

The charity found that 67% of polling stations used at the 6 May general election failed a basic disability access test. Postal voting was also found to be largely inaccessible.

Some disabled voters interviewed by Scope said they had been asked to vote in the street because polling stations were inaccessible, while others with visual impairments reported they feared they had spoiled their ballots because of problems using tactile voting devices.

The figures are similar to those gathered by Scope after the general elections in 2005 and 2001.

Ruth Scott, director of policy and campaigns at Scope, said: “Over the last decade there has been next to no improvement in the overall accessibility of polling stations or postal voting. There is a pressing need for clearer accountability over how elections are delivered, to help improve the accessibility of current voting methods, as well as expanding these to include alternative methods.”

Scope, which examined more than 1,000 polling stations across the UK, classified as inaccessible those that failed at least one of five tests.

However, John Turner, chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said Scope’s findings were “a headline grabbing statistic that would not be borne out by scientific analysis”.

Turner said more polling booths should be in public buildings, which have had to meet accessibility standards under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 for several years.

Scott advocated the introduction on online voting to help solve the problem.

Over a third of disabled people interviewed by Scope supported the introduction of online voting to overcome accessibility barriers they faced.

Hannah Tutt, from Canterbury, who has cerebral palsy, said she was left “angry and frustrated” when she went to vote in the general election.

The wheelchair accessible entrance to the polling station was boarded up when she arrived forcing her to vote outside. “I had to vote in the open air outside, in full public view and not in the privacy of the polling booths like everyone else,” said Tutt.

She added: “It turned out there wasn’t a lower level voting booth available anyway so there would have still been problems if I had been able to go inside.”

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