It is with horror that we read the newly released Polls Apart 2010: Opening Elections to Disabled People report from Scope outlining the reality for Disabled and Deaf voters in the last general election in May 2010.

The report states that:  67% of polling stations had one or more significant access barriers to disabled voters. This is just 1% percent improvement from the last General Election and 2% from the General Election of 2001. It goes on to say:

“On average each parliamentary constituency contains 15,000 disabled voters; a fifth of their total electorate.”

On 6th May hundreds of  people visited over a 1,000 polling stations across 400 parliamentary constituencies in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. This is the fifth report from Scope. The outcome is shocking yet it’s been fourteen years since the Disability Discrimination Act came into force .

The report also illustrates the attitudes of Election staff and the discrimination that Disabled people experienced on Election Day.

Local Authorities are failing in their duties to ensure polling stations are accessible. Of the 86% of polling stations reviewed, local authorities knew that 14 percent (3,851) of the polling stations they intended to use would not be accessible to disabled voters.

Of the  polling stations that had not been reviewed – 890 were not considered accessible to disabled voters. Just 8% percent (60) made a change to the polling station following the review.

Pesky People urges you to read the report, lobby your local authority, local councillors, MPs to ensure that the next elections (local or otherwise) are fully accessible to Disabled and Deaf people. Support local Disability groups to also take up the issue.

There should be no barriers stoping Disabled people from registering to vote, making postal votes or voting in person.

We have a right to vote – the attitudes of staff, local authorities and the voting system has a long way to go. Why isn’t the legislation working. What is the Human Equalities Commission doing to enforce it?

Sadly none of the political parties bothered to automatically offer transcripts, alternative formats, subtitles or BSL interpreted options for all of their electoral campaign literature online. So besides stopping Disabled people from getting to the ballot box a big question should be asked about what the political parties are doing for 18% of the population?

That is 9,750,000 Disabled and Deaf people (if there is an average of 15,000 Disabled people eligible to vote in each constituency.