It’s not so long ago and certainly within the lifetime of many of us as disabled people that polling booths in the UK were not universally accessible and it wasn’t seen as a problem.
I remember a village near here which used a caravan as a polling booth and no one wondered how we should get into it!
Now society understands the principle of disabled people’s rights and so it is easy to challenge if physical access has been forgotten.
Now it is possible to get easy read manifestos and guidance on voting to enable people with learning difficulties to participate easily.
There are still disabled people who choose to go to the polling station to continue to make the point about our entitlement to vote with the rest of society. I confess to having moved to a postal vote myself as this has become a more mainstream way of voting and it all works smoothly for me. This time I noticed you could apply for a signature waiver if needed and as I have difficulty signing now I have asked for this option. It was quite straightforward to apply via email, telephone or the council website so hopefully it will be ready for me by the general election.
Some disabled people may want to be more politically active around election time and Disability Rights UK have suggested the following questions are in our interests to ask election candidates:-
1. Are you committed to the rights of disabled people to participate fully in society?
• In practice, if elected, would you work with disabled people and our organisations on an action plan, with short and longer-term goals, to ensure the UK meets its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? See https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2017/january/disabled-people-tell-un-committee-uk-failing-international-rights-convention for the top issues where the UK must make progress
• Do you support our rights to independent living, accessible transport, education, employment and public life?
• Will you work to ensure our rights are protected and developed post Brexit?
2. Will you change the way the benefits system works for disabled people?
• Are you committed to replacing the Work Capability Assessment and sanctions regime for disabled people claiming benefits?
• Are you committed to no further benefit cuts affecting disabled people in the next Parliament?
3. Are you committed to a health and social care system that enables disabled people to lead full, independent lives?
• Will you work to stop the rise in compulsory detention and forced treatment of people with mental health issues or learning disabilities?
• Will you work to phase out restraint and seclusion?
• Will you work for a social care funding solution that offers all disabled people more choice and control in our lives?
• What are you going to do about the amount we have to pay in social care charges?
And of course extra support must go to those disabled people who choose to stand as candidates despite the extra barriers of all kinds they face in contributing in this way.
It’s not easy to see a positive way ahead at present but it’s still important to use your vote!
Clare Evans MBE
This is the first of regular short blogs (450 words ish) on topical issues relevant to us as disabled people.