Speaking up to MPs about accessible information
As part of the work I do for United Response, I support people with learning disabilities to find out more about politics and elections, and to have their voices heard by voting at election time.
Last month I went to the cabinet office, with Justin from our politics group Speak as One, and John from United Response, to speak to the electoral commission about how elections could be more accessible for people with learning disabilities.
We were then invited to a follow up meeting with political parties about how accessible their information was at the recent general election.
Our second trip to the cabinet office
As we were walking to the meeting, I was feeling confident. Confident that Justin, John and I were in a position that allowed us to speak up against the discrimination that people with learning difficulties face.
Like Justin said ahead of the meeting, “They say they are fighting for equality. But I don’t see it that way, because why should people with additional needs wait for a long time for an Easy Read manifesto?”
After a few minutes of waiting we were taken into a meeting room with around 15 other people. The atmosphere in this room was quite serious, very different from the last meeting we’d been to with civil servants and the electoral commission.
This knocked my confidence a bit as I was expecting a relaxed environment. We all sat down and introduced ourselves. There were representatives from all the political parties. Some with job titles I had never even heard of. My head whizzed with roles that sounded made up.
The importance of accessible information
It was our turn to speak and my confidence returned. I spoke about how manifestos and political marketing need to be made more accessible.
I mentioned how the people we support felt that parties do not prioritise their views, and that more should be done to supply people with learning disabilities with easy read information.
I was on a roll! I didn’t feel nervous at this point as the people around the table were there to hear what we had to say. They were also there because we the people had voted for their representation. And at the end of the day they were just people in suits.
The party representatives then asked us questions. There were a few blushes around the table when some of the answers didn’t show them in a great light!
After the meeting we were all in great spirits and feeling proud that we had shared people’s views, and stood up for people who couldn’t be there.
It hasn’t made me want to be a politician but it has definitely given me a huge respect for the people who run the country. It’s not an easy job and there is a lot of pressure.
I believe what we talked about has had a real impact, and hope that we will see more easy read political information in the future.
- Matt Campbell is a United Response Community Support Worker