How easy is it for deafblind people to vote?

cecilyCecily Chen,  Public Policy Placement Student

Since the start of this year, I have been finding out about how easy it is for deafblind people to vote in the General Election and whether there are any barriers that deafblind people face at election time.

I started by researching the various methods that deafblind people use to vote. These include attending allocated voting stations, voting by post or through proxy (appointing another person to vote on your behalf) and using a braille/large print template.

I have found that many polling stations are still not accessible for deafblind people.  When Liz Ball (Campaigns Involvement Officer in the Public Policy Team) was asked to share her views on voting and barriers to accessing elections she explained that,

“getting to the polling station is difficult so I now opt for a postal vote. And using a postal vote I have to get somebody to read the ballot paper to me and I have to ask them to mark the ballot paper on my behalf.  Not being able to vote independently can be a serious problem-put people under pressure and make people feel that maybe actually the system is open to abuse.”

Moreover, there are many people with disability and sensory impairments that are not happy with the accessibility of the current voting options – I’ve heard that many people are interested in politics and want to vote, but they still find it difficult due to a lack of understanding of their needs at the polling stations.

A BBC Ouch article  (published 28 March) describes how disabled people still feel left out when it comes to voting. The article pointed out, “research from the learning disability charity Mencap shows that 60% of people with learning disabilities didn’t register to vote for the last election because they found it too difficult.”  It also talks about how disabled people’s needs are being ignored at polling stations and what they have to say about the accessibility of the voting process.

As part of my project on voting I have developed a survey for deafblind people that is a part of the campaign challenge ‘Will you pledge to vote?’, which launches today.  

If you are deafblind and interested in voting, will you fill out this short survey?

By filling in the survey, it will help us to have a better understanding of the biggest barriers that deafblind people face in the voting process. The survey isn’t very long and it simply asks about your experiences of voting and the voting methods that you used. But more importantly, we’d like to hear about your opinions on the current voting methods and what can be changed to make the voting process more accessible.

If you would like to know more about disabled people and voting, there are several campaigns to encourage people with disabilities to vote, including Operation Disabled Vote, Love Your Vote Campaign and Hear My Voice by Mencap.

You can find out more information about the campaigns through the following links:

Operation Disabled Vote

Love Your Vote by Disability Now

Hear My Voice by Mencap

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