There are now more resources than ever to support people with a learning disability and their families and carers to get involved in the election. And the stakes are high – the 2010 general election is set to be one of the most pivotal of recent times for the learning disability community. Budgets are likely to be cut whichever party wins the general election – which means tough times lie ahead for all those who need care and support.
"It is vitally important that the much needed reform of our social care system – particularly for disabled people of a working age – does not get lost in the business of the new parliament," says Peter Hand. "It's our job to make that clear to MPs. We must use the general election as a means to make our views known, as it will be an important springboard to continue lobbying in the future."
Crucially, by participating in the democratic process, people with a learning disability are not just using their vote but, more importantly, their voice. "More people should vote, of course, but they should also meet with their MPs to explain what they want as constituents," concludes Su Sayer.
"People should get involved on a local level – talk to their councillors or stand as councillors. Only when people with a learning disability are fully involved in the democratic process will they have their rightful say in this country's future."
Use your voice: get registered, get voting!
Get my vote
Go to www.mencap.org.uk/getmyvote to download Mencap's easy read guide to voting and to ask your MP to sign the Early Day Motion calling for political parties to make their election material accessible. Mencap is also distributing pledge cards for people to send to their MP – copies are included with this issue of Viewpoint.
Promote the Vote
Before you can vote you must be registered. The website www.promotethevote.co.uk was designed by people with a learning disability and Easy Read Online, and has step-by-step guides on how to vote.
Every Vote Counts
United Response's www.everyvotecounts.org.uk is an easy read-site with stories, videos and resources. It contains a wealth of information on how democracy, politics, elections and voting work.
Polls Apart is Scope's campaign to improve accessibility to polling stations. In 2005, Scope's volunteers found that 68% of polling stations could be inaccessible to a disabled person. Go to www.pollsapart.org.uk
About My Vote
www.aboutmyvote.co.uk is the official website on voting from the Electoral Commission. It is not easy read, but provides a comprehensive guide to registering to vote, postal voting, polling stations, how to choose who to vote for, and why you should vote.
They Work for You
Find out the name of your MP and how to contact them at www.theyworkforyou.com
Be an MP!
Try being an MP for a week in this game from parliament's education service. Go to www.snipurl.com/ueczj
This article appeared in the March/April 2010 version of Viewpoint