Ishmail Kaji MencapThe main five UK political parties have launched accessible versions of their party manifestos for people with a learning disability. The Easy Read manifestos use simple language and pictures, which make it easier for people with communication difficulties to understand what each party stands for. 

The Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP worked with learning disability charity Mencap to produce the Easy Read manifestos, with the Greens also producing an accessible version of their manifesto. All five manifestos are on Mencap’s website: www.mencap.org.uk/easymanifestos

In response to a UK-wide call from people with a learning disability and their families for more accessible information about what the parties in this year’s general election stand for, Mencap’s parliamentary affairs assistant, Ismail Kaji (pictured), wrote to all of the party leaders to ask them to produce Easy Read manifestos.

Kaji said he was pleased to see the Easy Read manifestos, adding: “Many people with a learning disability did not vote in the last election and we want to change that. Lots of people with a learning disability who didn’t vote in the local elections last year said that they didn’t know which party to vote for. This is no surprise as politicians use really complicated language and jargon that is hard to follow. 

“The Easy Read manifestos use simple language and pictures, which make it easier to understand what each party is promising. This will mean that people with a learning disability feel more valued and included and understand why their vote counts. 

“They can then make their own choice about who they want to vote for at the general election on Thursday 7 May. Our voices matter. Together, people with a learning disability and our families can make a difference.”

Overcoming exclusion

Research for Mencap’s Hear my voice general election campaign found that people with a learning disability have a political appetite and want to vote, but many are excluded from the process and aren’t able to exercise their democratic right. 

This culture of inaccessible politics discouraged 64% of people with a learning disability from voting in local elections last May. Of those who didn’t vote, 56% said they didn’t want to vote for any of the political parties because they didn’t understand what they stood for. 

One of these was Vijay Patel, who felt excluded from politics because of the complex language that politicians use: “I wasn't sure who to vote for in the last general election as all of the parties were against each another and used big words with lots of jargon,” he said. “The government needs to make sure their information and policies are in Easy Read for people to understand what they’re talking about. I’m looking forward to reading the Easy Read manifestos and making sure my vote counts!” 

Lorainne Bellamy, who has a learning disability, works at Mencap and read the Easy Read manifestos before they were finalised, to ensure that they were as accessible and informative as possible. 

“I went through the manifestos to check to see if they were in Easy Read,” she said. “I read through the Labour and UKIP manifestos. The UKIP manifesto had a summary that was at the beginning, and it was very good because it explained some of the long words.

“It is important to have the manifestos in Easy Read because the words they use are not accessible. I would like to vote, so I need to understand who I am voting for.”