votingRepresentatives from Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave attended a hustings event recently to discuss how people with a learning disability will be affected by the outcome of the EU Referendum and hear about the barriers faced by people with a learning disability towards making their voices heard.

On June 10 an audience of more than 50 people with a learning disability questioned campaign representatives Seb Dance MEP, representing Britain Stronger in Europe, and Patricia McKenna from Vote Leave on topics such as the economy, immigration and security and how the 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK will be affected by the possible outcomes of the vote.

The event also raised the issue of inaccessibility of the voting system and the need to better include people with a learning disability in the political process by overcoming negative attitudes and providing Easy Read information, which makes it easier for people with a learning disability to understand information. Both campaigns have produced Easy Read information outlining their arguments.

As it stands, 70% of people with a learning disability said they want to vote in the future compared to 55% of the general public who said that they are not very, or at all, invested in politics. Despite wanting to vote, 64% said they were unable to vote in the local elections, with 17% saying they were turned away from polling stations and 60% saying that registering to vote was too hard. 

Young ambassador, Vijay Patel, who has a learning disability, introduced the hustings event. He explained why he is finding it difficult to decide how to vote: “The EU Referendum vote is going to be important for me and other people with a learning disability and it’s important we have our say. I would think it will make things easier for me if there were clear facts about the EU Referendum. 

“I find it hard to understand some of the arguments when I watch the news on the television. The issues are complicated and a lot of jargon is used.”

Rob Holland, parliamentary manager at Mencap, added: “People with a learning disability have been telling us that the EU referendum needs to be made much more accessible. The arguments are extremely complicated and campaigners have neglected to talk specifically about how this group will be affected. This hustings event has been a great opportunity for people with a learning disability to ask questions to representatives from Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave so they can better understand the impact of staying in or leaving the EU on their lives. 

“We’re pleased that both campaigns have produced Easy Read guides with easy to understand information and images which we hope will help people make a more informed decision.

“There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK and we know they have a strong desire to vote, yet they are often left out of the debate completely. The Stronger In and Vote leave campaigns should be actively engaging with people with a learning disability. It’s not only the right thing to do but in a close referendum the learning disability vote could be crucial.”

Easy Read information for the Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe campaigns can be found here