Voting with a Disability in the UK

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

Voting with a disability can be quite a tedious but rewarding experience. We often suffer marginalised politics for a marginalised people.

The Electoral Voting Commission in the UK offers Accessible Voting for all. They endorse voting through accessibility videos: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/accessible-voting-for-all.

First of all, you must register to vote, but only once you’re 18 years old or older on the day of the election. In Scotland and Wales you can vote at age 16 or over.

You can register online or by post. However, you cannot vote online in any elections.

Physically challenged voters and wheelchair users can vote in person because all polling stations are wheelchair accessible. They also have the option of voting by post. As a wheelchair user, while living in Bradford as a student, I voted in person. I’ve also voted in person at the St. John’s Anglican church in Ilkley.

Vision Impaired Voters

Vision Impaired voters can vote through Tactile Audio Device Voting. The TAD is easy to use and utilize your hearing and touch senses to vote without assistance: https://bernews.com/2020/09/tad-voting-demonstration-on-saturday/?fbclid=IwAR0i7UY4PXPDUJ1uF95-w_F3QBogRtqDwOWq8jDPpgJqHn_ZmBiWyA8wF4k.

There’s also Proxy Voting in Wales. You can do this by asking someone to vote for you. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/898774/Apply-to-vote-by-proxy-due-to-a-disability-Welsh.pdf.

Hearing Impaired Voters

Unfortunately, according to my research, the hearing impaired want to be included in voting at the European Parliamentary Elections, through subtitles and sign language but are still fighting for recognition. https://www.eud.eu/news/real-rights-persons-disabilities-vote-european-parliament-elections/.

Deaf voters are demanding improvements. ‘No captions, no vote’, they say! https://inews.co.uk/opinion/no-captions-no-vote-why-deaf-voters-are-calling-for-more-accessible-campaigning-this-general-election-368084. This indicates that there is more work, by way of advocacy, to be done.

According to statistics, one in five British voters are disabled. So why does politics ignore us?

Austerity has been bruttal for disabled people. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/13/disabled-people-politics-brexit-election. This is why we need elections and voting.

Most politicians like to say ‘don’t vote, don’t complain.’

However the disabled community has every right to complain if they’ve asked for reasonable adjustments but get ignored every time.

Voting is about getting your voice heard. Voting is the starting point for political action. It’s about sharing political concerns, expectations and solutions. Disability voting is about tackling and dismantling oppressive systems of injustice. It is also about holding our politicians accountable. Voting should reimagine law enforcement, as well as reinforce disability justice, disability rights and disability advocacy.

The next step after campaigning and voting would be debating disability related issues. Canvassing is about relationship building. Canvassing will most likely highlight voters concerns. It is very difficult to debate sensitive subjects that you are passionate about like Euthanasia, without letting your emotions run high.

During my high school years, I had the privilege of participating in a political group called ‘Youth Parliament Bermuda.’ While on this team, I got a chance to debate various topics in the House of Assembly with other students. http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20070517/NEWS/305179917.

The Disability Union is also good at doing this for legal support (https://disabilityunion.co.uk/).

Netflix even has a disability revolution movie entitled, ‘Crip Camp’, which is a documentary about a groundbreaking summer camp which galvanizes a group of teens with disabilities, to help build a movement forging a new path towards greater equality. It also shows great impacts on disability rights and advocacy.

Also, voting and elections is about power. Purple is also associated with royalty. The reason why the colour purple is used to represent disability is because it’s about identity : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-25767082. As a member of the Purple Vote Campaign, this is important to know.

Disability representation is important for inclusion, equality and identity. ‘DISABILITY VOTE MATTERS!’

Voting might be more difficult this year than at any other point in history due to global pandemic and lack of access to voting options. This is why we are raising awareness about voting resources, rights, and the importance of the disability vote. We need everyone involved to make positive change in our communities.

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