70% of people with a learning disability said that they want to vote in the future (1), bucking the trend of a somewhat apathetic general public, of which 55% say they are not very, or at all, interested in politics (2).
Yet, despite their appetite for politics, people with a learning disability face many barriers when it comes to registering to vote, deciding who they want to vote for and casting their vote. Indeed, 64% of people with a learning disability surveyed did not vote in the recent local elections because:
- 17% said they were turned away at the polling station because they had a learning disability
- 60% said that registering to vote was too hard
- 56% said they didn’t want to vote for any of the political parties.
This culture of inaccessible politics has discouraged many people with a learning disability from voting. People like 35-year-old Sarah from Minehead, Somerset:
I haven't voted before because I didn't have enough information about the different parties. When I listen to them speak, I don't understand what they are talking about. Politicians use really complicated language. I want to vote in the future, but I need more accessible information so that I am more informed and can then choose who I want to vote for.
Mencap young ambassador Vijay is 27 years old and lives in Hendon. He feels excluded from politics because of the complex language that politicians use:
I wasn't sure who to vote for as all of the parties are against each another and use big words with lots of jargon. The government needs to make sure their information and policies are in easy read for people. Without the easy read versions, I don’t understand what the politicians are talking about.
Today’s survey comes in the midst of Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign, which aims to ensure the next Government addresses the discrimination faced by people with a learning disability and their families by helping them make their voices heard.
This discrimination includes a prosecution rate of just 1% for people who commit disability hate crimes; and 1,200 people with a learning disability dying avoidably in the NHS every year due to poor healthcare and institutionalised discrimination.
An opinion poll carried out by Populus for the Hear my voice campaign showed that 90% the general public thought the next government, who is elected in May 2015, should actively take steps to tackle this discrimination (3).
Rossanna Trudgian, head of campaigns and activism for Mencap, said:
It is really important for people with a learning disability to have a voice in politics, so that they have an opportunity to shape the policies that directly impact their lives. They have the same right to vote as anybody else, yet our survey shows that people with a learning disability are clearly being denied this right by a system that excludes them.
Not only is the system inaccessible, but politics is also plagued with discriminatory attitudes. In the recent local elections, it was reported that a Councillor in Manchester said that people with a learning disability ‘shouldn’t be voting’. If this wasn’t awful enough, almost 1 in 5 of the people who we spoke to, who did not vote in the recent local elections, were turned away from the polling station because they had a learning disability. This is unacceptable in 21st century Britain. We must urgently tackle this culture of inaccessible and discriminatory politics.
Following a grant by the Cabinet Office, Mencap has developed a range of easy read guides to tell people with a learning disability, their families and carers everything they need to know about voting, registering to vote and supporting someone else to vote (4).
Ismail Kaji, parliamentary affairs assistant for Mencap, has a learning disability. He explains how difficult it was to understand his voter registration form:
It was very complicated to fill in. I did not know what I had to do. The information that explained the forms was not clear. The form had too many boxes and difficult words. There was not enough room in the form to write information. It made me feel excluded. Hopefully these new easy read guides will make sure other people with a learning disability don’t have to go through the same confusing experiences that I did.
For more information, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 6950 or email@example.com
(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) Office for National Statistics:
Measuring National Well-being, Governance, 2014: http://goo.gl/0KxvKE
(3) Populus omnibus poll: Hear my voicesurvey
Populus interviewed a random sample of 2062 GB adults aged 18+ from its online panel between 22nd - 25h August 2014. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at www.populus.co.uk
Question: To what extent do you think the next UK government who is elected in May 2015 should or should not actively take steps to tackle learning disability issues?
NET: Should take steps
NET: Should not take steps
(4) Mencap’s All about voting resources:
Notes to editors
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign
People with a learning disability – and the millions of family members, carers and support workers connected to them – can make their voices heard on the issues that matter to them at the 2015 General Election.
Hear my voice is a campaign designed to provide a platform for people with a learning disability and their families to make their voices heard. There are a lot of different ways to get involved, from sharing what matters to you, to holding an event to get people with a learning disability registered to vote. Through grassroots campaigning, Hear my voice will ensure the next Government improves the lives of people with a learning disability.