National disability charity United Response is launching its 2015 accessible voting campaign, Every Vote Counts, during a reception at the House of Commons today, sponsored by Dame Anne Begg MP.

United Response’s Every Vote Count campaign aims to increase political awareness, active citizenship and legal entitlement to voting amongst people with learning disabilities and those who support them, in the run up to the General Election, by making politics and voting easier to understand. 

By choosing to launch the campaign in the House of Commons, United Response is directly targeting MPs.  There are 1.5 million constituents in the UK who have a learning disability, the majority of whom have never voted.  

Broadcaster and United Response’s President Martyn Lewis CBE will host the proceedings and welcome speakers including sponsor Dame Anne Begg MP, Rt. Hon. Paul Burstow MP, Kate Green MP and Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing MP.  Each speaker will take the opportunity to explain their views on the importance of political participation amongst people with learning disabilities. All those attending the reception will also have the opportunity to hear directly from two people with learning disabilities; Ian Coley who is supported by United Response and Jermaine Williams who works as a UR Consultant. They will be speaking about why voting is important to them during a question and answer session invigilated Martyn Lewis CBE.

Both Ian and Jermaine explain here in a short video why the Every Vote Counts campaign is important to them.

In the video Jermaine explains why accessible easy read resources, which use simple sentences and helpful images, make things easier for him to understand:

“I think easy read will help people to vote.  I read the easy read magazine and it makes it easier for me.  I am understanding the news better.  It will help other people like me start to understand the government more.”

Ian said: “Just talk to people, you can actually explain to them what politics is all about.”

Research carried out in 2007 by United Response amongst the people it supports showed that, despite people with learning disabilities having the same right to vote as everyone else, only 1 in 8 voted in the 2005 General Election.  Through successful campaigning by United Response and other learning disabilities organisations, this increased to 1 in 3 at the 2010 election, but this was still far below the turnout of the general population. 

A recent survey of people with learning disabilities who subscribe to United Response’s award winning accessible news magazine, Easy News, found that 58% of subscribers felt that politics made a difference to their lives.  However, the single most important question asked was, “Are you planning to vote in the 2015 elections?”  A huge 82% of Easy News subscribers said yes they are planning to vote, with a further 14% still unsure. 

The survey also indicated that nearly a third of the respondents want access to easy to understand information about the candidates and their political parties, highlighting a lack of accessible information as a key barrier facing people with learning disabilities when using their vote.

Every Vote Counts starts the process of removing that barrier; United Response has taken over 40 years’ experience of supporting people with disabilities and produced a brand new set of easy read resources and accompanying website that make politics and voting easy to understand, as well as explaining how politics affects all our daily lives.

Take a look at the Every Vote Counts website

The new Every Vote Counts website also has a dedicated section which explains how MPs and their parties can make information accessible to constituents with learning disabilities.

Shan Nicholas, United Response Interim Chief Executive, said ahead of the launch,

“By launching our Every Vote Counts campaign in the heart of Westminster, we are starting the process of ensuring that, not only the people we support but the wider population of 1.5 million people with learning disabilities, achieve voting parity in the forthcoming General Election.  We know that people with learning disabilities want to vote; by providing easy ready materials MPs can ensure that they really do engage with this important, but too often neglected, group of constituents.”

“United Response calls upon all political parties to remove the barriers for people with learning disabilities to engage in the debate by producing accessible manifestos and candidate profiles."