'Elections are not accessible for disabled people'

Photos of ace anglia advocates talking about their thoughts of politics, voting, and the election
Advocacy Group Ace Anglia said many people with disabilities do not feel voting and elections are accessible [Cad Taylor/BBC]

Elections and voting are not fully accessible for people with disabilities, an advocacy group has said.

Ace Anglia, based in Stowmarket, Suffolk, primarily worked with people with learning disabilities and autism.

Mark Conquer, who works with the group, said more needed to be done to allow people with disabilities to have the same access to election material and the ability to keep their vote confidential.

The Electoral Commission said recent changes required equipment and support for disabled people to be available, to allow them vote independently and in secret. It urged voters to contact their local authority ahead of polling day about additional support.

Mark Conquer
Mark Conquer said he felt that some disabled voters are unable to have a secret ballot [Cad Taylor/BBC]

Mr Conquer said: "People with multiple disabilities can't vote secretly.

"A lot of people are trying to make sure they can do that secretly, but at the minute nothing can be done in secret."

Although help is meant to be available in polling stations Mr Conquer said "it's never worked" in his experience.

He said there was also a mixed bag in terms of election documents, including party manifestos, being easily accessible in different formats.

"At the minute, document wise, it's not always accessible," he said.

"Maybe it needs to be a UK campaign to make sure these things are accessible, even if a snap election is called.

"Parties need to be better prepped, so these things can be pre done."

He added that it felt like concerns of disabled people were not a main issue for many parties, leading to a sense of disillusionment.

A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said : “It’s important that all voters are able to vote independently and secretly.

"Recent changes to legislation require returning officers to provide equipment that will support disabled people to vote independently and secretly."

Guidance has been issued about accessibility needs and the commission urged voters to contact their local authority ahead of polling day about additional support.

The spokesperson added political parties are responsible for producing their own manifestos but the commission has recommended there should be accessible formats made available at the same time, so that disabled people have just as much time as anyone else to understand what parties stand for".

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