There are 1.5 million adults in the UK with learning disabilities, all of whom have the same legal entitlement to vote as everyone else, and regardless of mental capacity. At present, however, very few people with learning disabilities are using their right to vote.
Back in 2007, the national disability charity, United Response, carried out a survey of the people it supports to find out how many people were voting and taking part in politics. We found that, even though 80% of the people that we support were registered to vote, only 1 in 8 had voted at the 2005 General Election, and only 1 in 6 had voted in their last local elections.
A lack of easy to understand information about voting and the political system, as well as lack of awareness amongst political stakeholders about the needs and rights of people with learning disabilities, were all cited as key reasons for people not using their vote. Our staff, who work directly with people with learning disabilities, told us that they wanted information on how best to support people to get involved in politics and resources that they could use to show people how politics affects their everyday lives.
As a result, we created a pack of easy read resources that anyone working with someone with a learning disability could use to help that person gain a better understanding of what politics is, how it impacts the things they do in their lives, and how they can get involved and express their opinion through voting. We also launched the Every Vote Counts campaign, to make people aware of the rights of people with learning disabilities, and to provide information for politicians on how to reach constituents with learning disabilities.
The 2010 General Election
In 2010, after the last General Election, we repeated our survey and found that the number of people that we support who had voted had increased significantly to 1 in 3. Other learning disability organisations campaigning on the same issue had similar results. This is a huge improvement, but is still far below the turnout of the general population, and still means that the majority of people with learning disabilities are missing the opportunity to vote.
Continuing the campaign
In 2014, we created a new set of resources and this new website to provide people with up-to-date easy to understand information about voting and politics. We have also created this dedicated part of the website for politicians to provide you with specific information on how you can make your own information easy to understand and relevant for constituents with learning disabilities. We have also included information on the needs and rights of people with learning disabilities, which we hope you will find useful.
How you can help
We hope that you will support this non-partisan campaign by creating your own easy to understand resources, and help us ensure that the vote of every constituent counts.