Disability charity United Response has launched its 2015 accessible voting campaign, Every Vote Counts, which aims to get more people with learning disabilities to use their vote.
The campaign was launched at a reception at the House of Commons, sponsored by Dame Anne Begg MP. It aims to increase political awareness, active citizenship and legal entitlement to voting among people with learning disabilities and those who support them in the run up to the general election by making politics and voting easier to understand.
There are 1.5 million constituents in the UK who have a learning disability, the majority of whom have never voted.
Research carried out in 2007 by United Response among the people it supports showed that, despite people with learning disabilities having the same right to vote as everyone else, only 1 in 8 voted in the 2005 general election. While this increased to 1 in 3 at the 2010 election, it was still far below the turnout of the general population.
A recent survey of people with learning disabilities who subscribe to United Response’s accessible news magazine, Easy News, found that 58% of subscribers felt that politics made a difference to their lives. Meanwhile, 82% they are planning to vote in the 2015 election, with a further 14% still unsure.
The survey also indicated that nearly a third of the respondents want access to easy to understand information about the candidates and their political parties, highlighting a lack of accessible information as a key barrier facing people with learning disabilities when using their vote.
Every Vote Counts starts the process of removing that barrier; United Response has produced a new set of easy read resources and accompanying website (www.everyvotecounts.org.uk) that make politics and voting easy to understand, as well as explaining how politics affects all our daily lives.
The Every Vote Counts website also has a dedicated section (www.everyvotecounts.org.uk/information-for-politicians) which explains how MP’s and their parties can make information accessible to constituents with learning disabilities.
Shan Nicholas, United Response’s interim chief executive, said: “By launching our Every Vote Counts campaign… we are starting the process of ensuring that, not only the people we support but the wider population of 1.5 million people with learning disabilities, achieve voting parity in the forthcoming general election. We know that people with learning disabilities want to vote; by providing easy ready materials MPs can ensure that they really do engage with this important, but too often neglected, group of constituents.
“United Response calls upon all political parties to remove the barriers for people with learning disabilities to engage in the debate by producing accessible manifestos and candidate profiles.”