Talk of politics is pretty unavoidable at the moment in the lead up to the next General Election taking place on the 8th June. But what does it mean for disabled people? An election had not actually been due until 7th May 2020, but a call for a snap election by current Prime Minister Theresa May received a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Commons on 19th April. Which means it’s happening.
Whether you turn on the TV or open up your daily newspaper, you’ll find a political party talking about how they think the country should be run over the next five years. But how easy is all their talk to actually understand and base an opinion on? And does that affect why some people just aren’t using their voice to cast a vote?
Whether you’re interested in voting yourself, or helping your disabled child speak up for what they want, My Family, Our Needs points you in the right direction; from more accessible information to online campaigns designed to highlight just disability issues.
Scope’s response to the General Election announcement
Mark Atkinson Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, said, ‘This election will be hugely important to disabled people in Britain and they will be looking closely at the policies and proposals from all parties.
‘Scope polling of disabled people and their priorities for Government highlight that 70% of disabled people believe disability benefits should be protected, 56% believe there should be an increase in investment in social care and 54% believe action should be taken on the extra costs disabled people face.
‘There are 13 million disabled people in Britain – a hugely significant number of votes – and 89% have said that they will vote at the next election. We’d urge all candidates to talk to and listen to their concerns, hopes and aspirations so that any government can build a country that works better for disabled people and delivers everyday equality.’
Why don’t people vote?
Many people don’t vote because they think their vote won’t make any difference, or they’d like to vote but don’t know enough about it. However, voting is vital as it shapes the way the country is run which could affect you. If you have no vote, you have no say.
In the last few years, our welfare system has really changed and a lot of people have been affected. One of the biggest changes to affect disabled people has been the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), back in 2013. The Government said that PIP would be easier to understand than DLA, but a lot of disability groups saw, and still see, PIP as completely unfair and a way for the Government to save money. With some of the most important issues that this country currently faces affecting disabled people, are there other reasons that disabled people may not vote?
Accessible voting information
The manifestos (documents saying what each political party will do if elected to Government) provided by the major political parties were only put into ‘easy read’ in 2010. Up until then, politicians were effectively preventing disabled people or those with a learning disability from learning about their plans and being able to choose who they vote for. Making things easier to understand gives a voice to each person who has the right to vote in this country.
Since 2010, United Response has been running the Every Vote Counts campaign. The campaign highlights the right of people with learning disabilities to vote and provides accessible information to help people to understand what politics is, the difference their vote makes and how to vote. If some of the main issues being put up for discussion amongst MPs affect disabled people then it isn’t fair that the policy information itself can’t be read by the people it most affects.
After the announcement of the snap election in June, United Response has updated its accessible Every Vote Counts website with new information about how to register to vote and what happens at a General Election.
Mencap has also produced a series of easy read guides to tell you everything you need to know about voting. You can download all the guides for free, which include registering to vote, how to vote by post, how to vote on behalf of somebody else, voting at a poll station and a useful explanation of voting terms and jargon that may sound confusing.
What to expect at the polling station
The Electoral Commission advises that polling stations must ensure that disabled voters are not offered a lower standard of service than other voters. Polling stations should have wheelchair ramps and disabled parking spaces, as well as low-level polling booths and equipment for voters who have a visual impairment.
If you want to find out if your local polling station is accessible, contact the Electoral Registration Officer at your local authority to talk about specific requirements. To find your Electoral Registration Officer, enter your postcode in the search bar at the top of the Your Vote Matters page.
Getting disability rights out there
An online campaign #CripTheVoteUK is raising awareness of disability issues in the 2017 General Election but will not support any particular political party.
Sometimes trying to sift through the parts of a political party’s manifesto which will directly affect you and how you will vote can be time-consuming and, let’s be honest, confusing at the best of times. Having a social media platform which discusses discrimination, oppression and inequality and the policies which most affect disabled people should help people to make more informed choices and find the information they are looking for a little more easily.
Disabled activist and one of the organisers of #CripTheVoteUK, Eleanor Lisney said of the campaign, ‘We want to make enough noise (so that politicians) realise that disabled people are a big proportion of the population and that they cannot disregard our voting power. We are an important voice.’
Find out more @CripTheVoteUK
When is the registration deadline?
The Electoral Commission has confirmed that the deadline for registration is Monday 22nd May before voting commences on the 8th June. You don’t need to register again if you have already registered, but if you haven’t you can register at the Gov.UK website.
Find out the latest news about the General Election on Twitter by following the hashtag #GE2017 – do you think it’s easy for disabled people to vote? Let us know what you think @weareMFON or email us your experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll feature them in the run-up to the General Election.