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People with learning disabilities question Leave and Remain campaigners ahead of EU Referendum

20-Jun-16
Article By: Ellie Spanswick, News Editor

Representatives from both Britain Stronger in Euro and Vote Leave attended a hustings event on 10 June where they met with people with learning disabilities to discuss how the outcome of the referendum would affect them.

Campaigns were given the opportunity to hear about existing barriers faced by people with learning disabilities when making their voices heard.

The event sought to highlight issues faced by people with learning disabilities surrounding voting, including: inaccessible registering, vote forms and being turned away from polling stations.

More than 50 people with learning disabilities attended the event and were given the opportunity to question campaign representatives, Seb Dance MEP from Britain Stronger in Europe and Patricia McKenna from Vote Leave on topics such as: the economy, immigration and security, and how 1.4 million people living with learning disabilities in the UK will be affected by the possible outcomes of the vote.

Parliamentary manager at Mencap, Rob Holland, commented: “People with a learning disability have been telling us that the EU referendum needs to be made much more accessible. The arguments are extremely complicated and campaigners have neglected to talk specifically about how this group will be affected. This hustings event has been a great opportunity for people with a learning disability to ask questions to representatives from Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave so they can better understand the impact of staying in or leaving the EU on their lives.”

The event also raised the issue of inaccessible voting and the need to better include people with a learning disability in the political process, by overcoming negative attitudes and offering Easy Read information about voting and the options available to them - which both campaigns have produced to outline their arguments.

Mr Holland continued: “We’re pleased that both campaigns have produced Easy Read guides with easy to understand information and images which we hope will help people make a more informed decision.

“There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK and we know they have a strong desire to vote, yet they are often left out of the debate completely. The Stronger In and Vote leave campaigns should be actively engaging with people with a learning disability. It’s not only the right thing to do but in a close referendum the learning disability vote could be crucial.”

Figures from a 2014 study published by Mencap ahead of the 2015 General Election revealed that 60 per cent of people with learning disabilities felt registering to vote was too hard. 64 per cent said they were unable to vote in local elections, while 17 per cent revealed they had previously been turned away from polling stations.

Credit: abimages / Shutterstock.com

A further 70 per cent of people with learning disabilities revealed they wanted to vote in future, compared to the 55 per cent of the general public who said they are not ‘very’ or ‘at all’ interest in politics.

Vijay Patel has a learning disability and is a young ambassador for Mencap. Explaining why he finds it difficult to vote, he said: “The EU referendum vote is going to be important for me and other people with a learning disability and it’s important we have our say. I would think it will make things easier for me if there were clear facts about the EU referendum.

“I find it hard to understand some of the arguments when I watch the news on the television. The issues are complicated and a lot of jargon is used.”

Mencap have collated some Easy Read information about both the Britain Stronger in Europe and the Vote Leave campaign to help people with learning disabilities to make an informed decision before voting: https://www.mencap.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/hear-my-voice/all-about-voting/eu-referendum-2016

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