This blog is an edited version of a speech made by Dame Anne Begg at the launch of Easy News in Scotland. The launch was held at the offices of Inspire, in Aberdeen, with the support of the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disabilities.

Anne speaks about why she supports Easy News, her own personal experiences around accessible information and her hopes for a future where people with learning disabilities are more involved in our democracy.

"Before I had even heard of Easy News I had become very conscious that access to information, particularly access to news, was a particular problem for people with learning disabilities.

At the last general election I was travelling around on election day and met some groups of people with disabilities. I asked them if they were voting, and their carers said, “oh but they’re not allowed to vote”. That was their carers speaking! I told them it wasn’t true, but it got me thinking that there are obviously large numbers of people with learning disabilities who aren’t voting, and that might be because they aren’t getting the right information.

I also have a cousin, Kenneth, who lives in Aberdeen. He’s got a learning disability and he simply has to have his daily paper. If he doesn’t get his Express every day then he’s bereft! So there is a desire for people to read and to get the news, it’s just that for some people the newspapers are too complicated. That’s why I wanted to support Easy News, the first paper to report in a simple and accessible way, with pictures.

It’s actually quite difficult to write things in a straightforward way but people do benefit from it. Even I do. When I work on something which is complicated, a bit of guidance around equality for example, I often read an easy read version as a useful summary, before I go into greater depth.

So when the launch of Easy News took place in the House of Commons, I was really interested. It was a really good event and there was lots of people there, including someone you might know as Bendygirl on Twitter, Kaliya Franklin. But it was only when I started to talk to someone from United Response that I realised it wasn’t available in Scotland yet and so I made the suggestion of a Scottish edition. Normally when I say something, I get ignored, so it was great that my suggestion was taken up.

I think there’s enough in the newspaper for people to get some kind of sense of what is going on and also to generate debate. I also hope it will remind people that everybody has the right to vote - especially in Scotland, where we have a really important referendum next year.

Just because you’ve got a learning disability doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking part in decisions and being able to make up your own mind. But you can only do that, if you get the right information and in a way that you can understand. And that’s why all of this is really important."

Issue 3 of Easy News is out today. It includes easy read stories on the death of Margaret Thatcher, new benefits, the success of UKIP at recent local elections in England and the Boston bombings.