Giving the learning disabled a voice in the 2015 election

Posted On: 
26th November 2014

MPs across party lines unanimously supported a new campaign to make voting accessible for adults with learning disabilities.

Ahead of the general election, United Response has launched its
Every Vote Counts campaign. Created to make voting more accessible to learning disabled adults, the campaign makes political information more understandable through their simple to read Easy News, election planners, and
website.

Speaking at the launch, Dame Anne Begg MP said that the material produced by the campaign was of incredible importance.

She recalled a moment while campaigning for her last election when she visited a community center for adults with learning disabilities where their carers told her that, “they are not allowed to vote.”

“That brought home that actually for many people it’s not that they wouldn’t like to vote or that they don’t know who an MP is… but it was being said by someone else that they were not fit to vote,” said Begg.

Incidents like this are what the Every Vote Counts campaign was hoping to address.

Dame Anne Begg said the lack of political involvement by learning disabled adults was a serious problem for the community because, “people with disabilities have more to gain, and probably more to lose if they are not involved in the democratic process.”

Former Care Minister and Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow agreed with Begg, citing the Care Act as an example of powerful legislation and the “absolutely critical role it will play going forward.”

With one in six vote-eligible adults having a learning disability, the decisions they make could have serious impact for the next general election.

“Political parties cannot afford to ignore them,” said Martyn Lewis, President of United Response.

“[This campaign] is not just a nice thing to do, it makes tremendous political sense,” he remarked.

Shadow Minister for Disabled People, Kate Green MP, agreed that people with learning disabilities “can make a big difference to the result of an election.”

“To be honest, I’d rather
youhelp the balance of power in the next parliament than UKIP,” encouraged the MP.

Evidence of the power of the Every Vote Counts campaign was seen in the 2010 election, reminded Burstow, where United Response succeeded in “doubling the number of adults with learn disabilities who took part in that election.”

Lewis explained why the campaign was so successful, noting that “once informed, people with learning disabilities are often very very passionate and want to get involved.”

The Every Vote Counts campaign however is not just for adults with learning disabilities. It also offers tools to MPs that help them make their information accessible to people with learning disabilities.

One of the strongest messages of the night was the clear support the campaign was given from all party members.

Conservative MP Caroline Spelman made note of the enthusiasm, saying, “I just wanted you to know that this has complete cross party support and that is incredibly important, as the best campaigns are built on a cross party platform.”

To read Dame Anne Begg MP's article on the campaign, click
here.