National social care provider Dimensions has created an innovative new document which will help polling stations become more accessible for people in the UK with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The voting passport, which can be filled in and printed at home, contains information in an easy-to-read format about an individual’s needs. It is designed to be handed to polling station staff so they can easily understand the reasonable adjustments needed to make the person more able to vote.
The idea was created after feedback from the people Dimensions supports indicated that polling stations can be a difficult environment for people with autism and/or learning disabilities to cast their votes.
Jordan, a person supported by Dimensions, was recently interviewed on BBC Ouch discussing the issues he faced when he first went to vote in 2005.
Jordan has mild learning disabilities and cerebral palsy. He was turned away from the polling station as he had a family member supporting him to read the candidates’ names and information within the polling booth.
The presiding officer said that his family member wasn’t allowed to come in and caused such a scene that Jordan’s anxiety levels grew to a level where the only option was for him to leave. As a result, he never got to cast his vote.
The document itself will tackle issues like this head-on. It includes an “About me” section with the person’s name and a list of things to help them to vote (e.g., no waiting in long queues or staying with their support workers).
It also allows them to write who they would like to support them, their names, and if they are eligible to vote in the UK or, if not, that they will need to work with the presiding officer to support them.
On the back of the document is a section called “Know my rights” which includes extracts from the Mental Capacity Act (2005), Electoral Administration Act (2006), and Equality Act (2010) to debunk common myths about the right to vote of people with learning disabilities and autism.
It also explains what other people can do such as explain the ballot options or come into the polling booth, and what other people can’t do such as make a decision for you or mark the ballot paper against your wishes.
The voting passport forms part of a wider campaign by Dimensions called Love Your Vote. The campaign encourages people with learning disabilities and autism to become more politically engaged.
Download a voting passport today.
This article was featured in Issue 67 – Preparing for Adulthood With Autism