It’s time to #ENABLEtheVote

December 6, 2019 ENABLE Scotland Blog Jan Savage - Executive Director of Campaigns and External Affairs

With the UK General Election just around the corner, we are all being bombarded with politicians making promises on TV and radio, in leaflets, social media posts, manifestos, and more! It’s practically inescapable.

In recent years, the parties have spent more time, effort and money than ever before on tailoring their messages to individual voters.

But does this extend to voters who have a learning disability?

The truth is that in 2019, the major political parties are still not doing enough to truly engage every voter in this campaign.

People who have a learning disability have the same right to vote as anyone else. They have a right to have their say and to influence the debate around the issues which matter most to them.

1.5 million people across the UK have a learning disability, including around 120,000 people in Scotland.

Given that there are 21 constituencies in Scotland where the gap between the top two parties was less than 2,000 votes at the last General Election – including 14 where the gap is less than 1,000 votes – the votes of people who have a learning disability can make a huge difference to which parties are celebrating on election night.

It would make perfect sense, therefore, that these politicians and campaigners would be extremely keen to make their parties’ manifestos and resources as accessible as possible.

Sadly, this is too often not the case.

A study by Mencap in 2014 found that while 70% of people who have a learning disability want to vote, 60% find the process too difficult, meaning only around 30% of people who have a learning disability actually use their right to vote in elections.

That’s why ENABLE Scotland launched our award-winning #ENABLEtheVote campaign.

#ENABLEtheVote set out to make the voting process and politicians much more accessible to people who have a learning disability.

#ENABLEtheVote seeks to empower people to have their say, influence the debate on the issues that matter to them, make informed choices about who to vote for, and ultimately, increase the number of people who have a learning disability who vote.

This campaign has proved highly successful, with 80% of people who have a learning disability who engaged with #ENABLEtheVote telling us they would definitely vote in the 2016 Scottish Parliament Election, and in 2017, 91% said they would definitely vote in the local council election – significantly higher than the 47% of the total electorate who actually voted in the local council elections across Scotland.

This success shows that producing accessible materials and making an effort to engage with people who have a learning disability really makes the election more inclusive, and boosts turnout.

So it seems self-defeating that parties producing easy read materials ready for the launch of their manifesto remains the exception and not the rule.

We won’t name and shame, but even a week ahead of the General Election, there are major parties who require people to phone a number to request an easy read version of their manifesto, rather than publishing it alongside the other versions on their website.

The message this sends to voters is that materials that are accessible and inclusive of them are an afterthought. This is not in line with our vision of an inclusive and equal society for every person who has a learning disability, and those parties need to up their game.

We have updated our own easy read #ENABLEtheVote Guide to Voting in the UK General Election which covers everything from “What is the General Election”, to a step-by-step guide for exactly “How to vote in the General Election”, and even a handy “What the words mean” section.

We hope this helps you to take part in the General Election, and don’t forget to use your vote on Thursday 12th December!

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