I’m sure your readers wanted their voice to matter in the recent election. But how would they feel if they travelled all the way to a polling station only to be turned away? This is what happened to a number of wheelchair voters at the election.
We decided to investigate this and what we found was quite shocking. We looked at the 50 most marginal constituencies in the UK and found that only three had adequate access info for wheelchair voters online. 88% had no info at all!
This means that many wheelchair voters wanting to vote in person along with the rest of us might have ended up in a situation where they couldn’t vote, due to lack of access. This election was expected to be one of the closest in a generation, so it’s baffling that so little thought was put into accessibility.
Many disabled people don’t want a postal or proxy vote because they want to share in the voting experience with the rest of society, so why are they being denied that choice because local authorities don’t put a few basic bits of info online?
I work for Revitalise, a charity that provides much-needed respite holidays for disabled people and carers and for us this is a simple matter of freedom and choice. Polling stations are still under no legal obligation to be fully wheelchair accessible and as a result, many disabled people are being forced by a lack of info to rely on postal and proxy voting – and we know that many people experienced problems with these methods too. As far as Revitalise is concerned, this amounts to a fundamental infringement of the democratic right of disabled people to choose where and how they vote.
In our view, the electoral authorities have five years to find suitable premises to use for just one day, so they really have no excuses if they mess it up!
To illustrate what might happen when access for wheelchair users hasn’t been thought through, we’ve produced a light-hearted video entitled The Perils of Polling, which can be viewed on our website.
I’d like to ask your readers to support our call for a dignified voting experience for all. To find out more, visit www.revitalise.org.uk.
Colin Brook, Revitalise
Access for Disabled at Polling Stations