In this blog post, Gary Bourlet, Co-Founder of Learning Disability England, shares some thoughts about the General Election on 8th June.
I have been voting since I turned 18. I have always voted, but I didn’t get involved in politics until I was a bit older. I got interested in politics through my involvement in the disability movement. I was always a bit of a rebel and joining a self-advocacy group helped me to talk about issues and politics with my friends. We had lots of differences of opinions and talked about the issues that affected us.
Lots of people with learning disabilities don’t vote because there are not enough resources and information about the system and how to vote. Campaigns like Love Your Vote campaign have really helped, but because of the short amount of time between the announcement and voting day, some people will not have been reached.
People with learning disabilities need to be able to ask questions of candidates and have access to manifestos in a format that is useful for them. Sometimes people with learning disabilities don’t realise that they can vote – carers may try and speak for them. People who are in residential homes don’t always get to vote. You can still vote if you have a learning disability. Even if you do not communicate using words.
There are several barriers to people with learning disabilities voting – again, lack of information; polling stations being inaccessible and also people being influenced by carers / support workers.
It is really important for people with learning disabilities to vote because their opinion is valuable and may be different to other people depending on things like age and experience. Everyone has the right to vote for whoever they want.
In the future to get people with learning disabilities to vote there needs to be lots done to educate everyone (not just those with learning disabilities) in the voting system. Schools need to provide information on the system for example holding mock elections, with manifestos and voting. Candidates should be encouraged to make contact with local people with learning disabilities and get to know the problems and issues that affect them.
General Election 2017
To be able to vote in the General Election you must be 18 years old and registered to vote. You can vote in person at a polling station by post. You can find out more about voting here:
Here are some tips from me:
- First you need to study the different manifestos. Political parties should have Easy Read manifestos on their websites. When you read the manifestos think about all the things they are talking about.
- You should decide which party you will vote for by thinking about the things that will affect you and your family and friends.
- Ask questions. You can talk to your MP and other candidates. Lots of them are on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes they hold ‘surgeries’ where local people can discuss problems and ask questions.
- Candidates will be canvassing for votes – have some stiff questions ready and don’t take no for an answer!
- Talk to your families and friends – decide what the important issues are for people with learnings disabilities.
On the day – June 8th 2017
Polling stations are open 7am -10pm. Take your Voting Passport with you if you need it.
You should have decided who you are voting for.
Put a cross by their name. Don’t write anything else on the ballot paper.
USE YOUR VOTE!
Easy read manifestos
Mencap has very usefully brought together all the easy read manifestos from: Labour, Green, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru.
You can find them all here.
The Conservatives, UKIP and the Scottish National Party (SNP) have not released easy read manifestos.