Roxanne Potts is a youth coordinator at Mencap’s Inspire Me project. Here, she speaks to three of Mencap’s Young Ambassadors about their first time experiences of voting, why it’s important to them, and what needs to happen so that more people with a learning disability vote.
Zoe’s story – “I voted for the first time in the European elections last month”
Roxanne: Tell us about yourself.
Zoe (pictured): My name is Zoe and I'm 18. I go to Richmond upon Thames College and I'm studying an entry level three course. I would like to work with children with learning disabilities and children who have been in care. I am a Young Ambassador for Mencap and I think it is important for young peoples voices to be heard so they can get there point across.
Roxanne: Tell us about your first experience of voting?
Zoe: It was during the European elections last month on May 22. I felt okay about voting but I was very nervous as it was all new and I had never done anything like it before. However it was okay because my mum helped me.
I think it’s really important that people vote because it tells the government what needs to change so they can come up with new ideas about helping people with learning disabilities.
The process of voting was OK because the borough of Richmond sent all the information to explain what I needed to do. Again my mum helped me with all of the things that if I didn't understand. There were no issues on the day that I voted and everyone was very friendly.
I think more people with learning disabilities would vote if it was made easier to understand. The government need to use easier words with less jargon.
Vijay’s story – “It’s important people vote so people’s voices are heard”
Roxanne: Tell us about yourself?
Vijay: My name is Vijay and I am 27. I like sports and to listen to music. I'm from Hendon and I work part-time in a local pub/restaurant as floor staff. I am a Young Ambassador for Mencap and I am interested in getting involved with all the opportunities they have to offer so I can help other people with a learning disability in the community.
I was 18 when I first voted. I liked this as this gave me the chance to have my say. As I only just turned 18 at the time I was very nervous as it was a brand new experience.
Roxanne: Why do you think it’s important to vote?
Vijay: I think it’s important that people vote so individual’s voices are heard and the government can adapt policies to the peoples needs. It’s important that the parties listen about the things young people with learning disabilities want to change as we are usually not considered.
Roxanne: Did you encounter any problems trying to vote?
Vijay: I was sent a letter which explained where I needed to go and vote. There were no issues before I went to vote, but the process was very daunting. I was new to it all and wasn't sure who to vote for as all parties are against one another and use big words with lots of jargon.
The government need to make sure there information and policies are in easy read for people. Without the easy read versions I would not understand how the voting system works. Things are better now than when I first voted but there are many changes needed to ensure young people have a say.
Ahmed’s story – “people with a learning disability need more support at the polling station”
Roxanne: Tell us about yourself?
Ahmed: My name is Ahmed and I am 20 years of age. I go to Richmond upon Thames College but I shall be studying a college course soon to be a mechanic. I would like to be a mechanic and one day have my own business. I love cars and like taking them apart and building new projects. I am a Young Ambassador with Mencap, I think it’s important to help people and raise awareness of learning disability issues.
Roxanne: What was your first experience of voting like?
Ahmed: I first voted when I was 18. My sister who lives in the same borough explained everything to me to help me understand what voting was about and why it is important.
Roxanne: Did you need any support to vote?
Ahmed: I think that people with a learning disability should get more support to vote. They should have the option to ask someone at the polling station to help them and to understand what each party is saying they will change.
If my sister did not help me I would have found it very hard to understand. Because my sister helped me I was able to vote, understand what I was doing and know that my voice and vote was heard.
Have you been inspired by Zoe, Vijay and Ahmend’s stories of how they voted for the first time? Learning Disability Today are supporting Mencap’s Learning Disability Week which is inviting people with a learning disability to share stories of their incredible first times. For more information on how to get involved with Learning Disability Week or how to share your own story head here: Learning Disability Week
Will you be voting in the next general election? If not then what are your concerns? Mencap is carrying out a voting survey for people with a learning disability and we want to hear your thoughts on everything to do with voting ahead of the 2015 General Election. Please take our survey, which takes less than 5 minutes and will help us understand what people with a learning disability think about voting, and how we can help to make voting more accessible for people with a learning disability.