Disability charity United Response has launched a set of resources that aim to open up politics to the 1.5 million adults with learning disabilities across the UK – many of whom did not vote at the last general election.
The resources form part of United Response’s Every Vote Counts campaign. First launched ahead of the 2010 General Election, the campaign – re-launched earlier this year – aims to make politics easier to understand for people with learning disabilities, as well as other vulnerable groups.
Research carried out by United Response among the people it supports found that only 1 in 8 people with a learning disability voted in the 2005 general election. Through the work of disability organisations and campaigns such as Every Vote Counts, this increased to 1 in 3 at the 2010 election, but is still below the general turnout.
A lack of easy to understand information about voting and politics is one the key reasons that many people with learning disabilities find voting difficult. In response to a recent survey carried out about voting by United Response, one person said: “I want to know more about voting but I can’t read and what they talk about on TV is too much and confusing.”
With this in mind, and in readiness for the 2015 general election, United Response has created a set of easy read resources to help people with learning disabilities cast their vote. Using simple text and images, the booklets cover everything from how politics affects our everyday lives, through to the role of parliament and politicians and how to get involved in politics. There are also sections on devolution and referendums.
Alongside the 3 easy read booklets, there is also a supporter’s booklet aimed at anyone wishing to help someone with learning disabilities get more involved in politics. The booklet looks at how to avoid bias and what the law says on mental capacity and voting.
Shan Nicholas, United Response’s chief executive, said: “We know that people with disabilities face many barriers to voting, whether through a lack of knowledge of their democratic rights or the complexities of the voting process.
“The new Every Vote Counts resources provide clear, accurate, unbiased information, creating a pathway for disabled people to make their own informed decisions. We support people to better understand and take part in the democratic process, so that their voices can be heard and their views considered.”
Stephen Penketh, registered manager at Lancashire-based disability charity Affinity Supporting People, highlighted the importance that easy read information makes to the people he supports. “We would like to receive easy read information from all political candidates,” he said. “Every person we support has a different preference for communication; whether it be through video, easy read or whatever they choose.
“So, working with a wide scope of communication styles is vital to our work. People should be given information in a way that they can understand.”
The resources include: ‘How politics affects your life’, which explains how politics works, the basic rights of all people and how these things impact community life as well as individuals.
‘How Politics Works’ details how MPs are elected and how they can help the community, as well as explanations of devolution and how elections at the European Parliament work. It also explains the work of political parties, and how the House of Lords and the Queen are involved in decision-making.
The final booklet, ‘How to get involved’, outlines the voting process in local, European and general elections, and offers advice on other ways to vote. There is also information about the political parties and how campaigning can impact on the decisions of politicians.