Two new campaigns aim to boost the number of people with learning difficulties who will vote at this year’s general election.
At the last general election in 2005 of the people with learning difficulties who use services run by the charity United Response and were registered to vote, less than one in six (16 per cent) actually did so.
These figures were even lower than government statistics from the 2001 election which suggested that just under a third of people with learning difficulties voted.
United Response has been working for three years on a project funded by the Electoral Commission that aims to help politicians make their work more accessible, and to support people with learning difficulties to become more engaged in politics.
It hopes to boost the numbers using their vote to 40 per cent at this year’s election.
And it is calling on all political parties to engage with the half a million people with learning difficulties who do not use their vote, encourage them to participate in the political process, and produce easy-read manifestos and campaign literature.
United Response’s Every Vote Counts report – launched this week at the House of Commons – says political jargon, complex voting systems and low awareness of their right to vote are major barriers to people with learning difficulties.
Lucy, a potential voter with learning difficulties, said: “Even people without learning disabilities find it hard to understand politics. They just speak jargon and don’t get to the point.
“They don’t involve us. If people with disabilities all vote, we will be heard. The more we get our voices heard, the more people will respect us.”
The United Response report follows the launch of a campaign by the learning difficulties charity Mencap earlier this month.
Mencap’s Get My Vote campaign aims to persuade political parties to make their manifestos and information easier to understand.
More than 100 MPs have signed a joint United Response/Mencap early day motion backing their two campaigns.
Last year, United Response launched a website, www.everyvotecounts.org.uk , which aims to make the political process easier to understand and help parliamentary candidates communicate clearly with voters with learning difficulties.
And in November, it sent out guides to every MP, MEP, council, election team and political party in England on how to make manifestos, leaflets and other political information accessible.
21 January 2010