Today (9 May) learning disability charity Mencap, has launched a set of accessible guides to the General Election to ensure people with a learning disability feel able to make their voices heard and cast their vote.
In partnership with the Electoral Commission, Mencap has produced an Easy Read guide for people with a learning disability on how to register to vote, the political process and how to vote on the day. Mencap has also produced a guide for supporters of people with a learning disability on how to help the person they support to cast their vote.
The Easy Read guides use simple language and pictures, which make it easier for people with communication difficulties to understand the often complicated political process. In the 2015 General Election, Easy Read materials were the most downloaded set of materials from the Mencap website .
On Friday, Mencap launched a campaign calling on each of the 5 major political parties to ensure they produce their manifestos in Easy Read format to ensure the 1 million  adults with a learning disability are able to make an informed decision about who to vote for.
Ismail Kaji has a learning disability and works as Parliamentary Support Officer at Mencap. He said:
It is very, very important to have Easy Read materials available during elections so that people with a learning disability can understand the voting process, how the register to vote and to help them decide who to vote for.
Without Easy Read, people with a learning disability will find it really difficult to vote, and could be excluded from the election completely. That is not acceptable. We deserve to be included and have the same opportunity to have our voices heard.
Rob Holland, Parliamentary Manager at learning disability charity Mencap, said:
The speed of this election means there is a real danger it will be completely inaccessible to people with a learning disability, making it all the more important that Easy Read information is available.
The political process is often confusing and jargon-filled, meaning for many people with a learning disability is completely inaccessible. In previous elections, these guides have been some of our most downloaded documents showing the real desire among people with a learning disability to vote and have their voices heard.
People with a learning disability are often the last group to be listened to, but the first to feel the effects of Government policy. Our guides will help people to understand the political process, but we are urging each of the five major political parties to ensure they also produce their manifestos in easy read format. If not, there is a real risk losing votes of a million people and excluding people with a learning disability from the process completely.
Emma Hartley, Head of Campaigns at the Electoral Commission said;
We’re really pleased to be working with Mencap ahead of the general election to help make voting more accessible for people with a learning disability. It’s absolutely vital that every voter is given the same opportunities to take part in elections and are able to register to vote easily. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Mencap, building on our previous joint work in this area, to ensure that important information explaining how to take part is readily available in an Easy Read format.
For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 5414 or firstname.lastname@example.org or for out of hours 07770 656 659.
Notes to editors
(1) Mencap voting survey
Mencap surveyed 553 people with a learning disability between 6 June and 18 August 2014.
Q: Have you ever voted before? (547 answered)
Q: Would you like to vote in the future? (535 answered)
Q: Did you vote in the recent local elections in May 2014? (515 answered)
Q: I wanted to vote in the past, but... (236 answered)
… Registering to vote was too hard 60%
… I did not want to vote for any of the political parties 56%
… I was turned away from the polling station because I had a learning disability 17%
(2) In 2015, Mencap’s GE2015 election materials were the most downloaded materials from the website that year at 33,755.
(3) 1 million votes - We estimate that there are 1,026,783 adults (aged 18+) with a learning disability in the UK. This is a crude estimate of the number of people with a learning disability in the UK, using population data (ONS 2016) and based on the prevalence of learning disability being around 2% for adults (see Hatton et al. 2016).
Hatton, C., Glover, G., Emerson, E. and Brown, I. (2016) People with Learning Disabilities in England 2015: Main Report. Learning Disabilities Observatory, Public Health England.
ONS (2016) MYE2: Population estimates by single year of age and sex for local authorities in the UK, mid-2015. http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/datasets/populationestimatesforukenglandandwalesscotlandandnorthernireland
Easy read materials
Mencap’s Easy Read guides to General Election 2017 - https://www.mencap.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/voting-and-registering-vote?q=ge2017
In the UK, there are 1 million people with a learning disability of voting age. Easy read is widely recognised as the best way for people with a learning disability to understand information. Easy read uses simple language and pictures to make information easier to understand for people with a learning disability.
There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.
For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email email@example.com
What is a learning disability?
A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.
People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.
Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.