No vote, no voice: Disabled people must have a say in upcoming election, claims London inclusion groups
Disabled people are missing out on voting in elections because of obstacles such as not knowing how to vote and inaccessible polling stations, according to two disability organisations.
Merton Centre for Independent Living is working in partnership with Inclusion London in a bid to help disabled people overcome helping disabled people register to vote.
The event, which took place outside the Merton Civic Centre in Morden, was part of Operation Disabled Vote which was set up to promote disability equality in the upcoming election.
CEO of Merton Centre for Independent Living, Lyla Adwan-Kamara, said: “We’re trying to make sure that disabled people are registered to vote as we think disabled people need to use their vote.
“The issues that politicians talk about are central to many people’s lives, especially disabled people’s lives.
“We feel it’s important people have their say and if they’re not registered then they won’t get a say in the election.
Last year the method for registration to vote changed something Ms Adwan-Kamara believes may be a reason why some disabled people aren’t registered to vote.
She said: “We know a large number of people are likely to have dropped off the electoral register with the changes to voter registration and that is one of the reasons we are doing this drive to check people are registered because previously it was done by head of household.
“That meant if you were in sheltered accommodation, the head of the household would do that.
“That’s now changed and people have to do it themselves – we’re concerned that some disabled people may have been affected by these changes.”
A campaign bus run by Inclusion London which has visited 13 London boroughs in the last week working with deaf and disabled groups also attended the event.
Campaign worker for Inclusion London, Ellen Clifford, said: “We don’t feel the government’s doing enough to find disabled people and put them on the electoral register ahead of April 20.”
As well as providing information about how to register to vote, Ms Clifford highlighted some of the other Operation Disabled Vote aims.
She said: “It’s about access to polling stations too so we printed a guide based on information from the electoral commission about what your rights are if you go to a polling station.
“A lot of people don’t know for example about tactile devices, or your right to request support from one of the polling stations and people also don’t know there isn’t a legal duty for polling stations to be wheelchair accessible which is outrageous.
“It’s also about giving access to disabled people on information from the political parties that will give them more of an idea about who they might want to vote for.
“Finally we want to engage with non-deaf and disabled people and encourage them to vote as well because we hear a lot of people saying ‘what is the point in voting?’”
A Mencap survey revealed that 64% of people with a learning disability didn’t vote in the most recent local elections with 60% saying registering to vote was too hard.
In the same survey 17% of people said they were turned away at the polling station because they had a learning disability.
You can register to vote by visiting https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
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