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Guide to help voters with disabilities

New guide outlining the legal rights of voters with disabilities launched ahead of this year’s general and local elections.

5 May 2015

Law firm Leigh Day have launched a guide and legal helpline for voters with disabilities who feel they have been unfairly discriminated against during the voting process at this year’s general and local elections.

Discrimination experts at the law firm claim, that many disabled people will be barred from the democratic process because of a lack of accessibility in polling stations and in the postal vote.  

According to Scope’s last Polls Apart survey, which reports after every general election, there are over 10 million disabled people in the UK and on average each parliamentary constituency contains 15,000 disabled voters; a fifth of their total electorate. 

However, the survey that followed the 2010 general election found that 67% of polling stations had one or more significant access barriers to disabled voters. A 1% improvement from the last election.

According to Kate Egerton, a lawyer at Leigh Day who specialises in human rights for people with disabilities, “At this rate, people with a disability will have to wait until 2345 to exercise their basic democratic rights on an equal basis.

“We are not just talking about physical access for people in wheelchairs, but also access for people who have a visual impairment or a learning disability.”

Postal voting has made things easier, but despite legislation and guidance that has created the impetus for significant improvement, Scope’s survey found that the implementation and enforcement of this on the ground falls far short. 

Ms Egerton continued:

“In a democracy everyone has the right to vote and this underpins many of our other civil liberties. Voting is therefore an important democratic right for everyone and, because of this, disabled people have additional legal rights to ensure that the voting process is accessible. 

“If these rights are not complied with you may be able to take legal action to ensure this doesn’t happen again and to obtain compensation for unlawful discrimination.”

The guide is available here and describes what legal rights people with disabilities have to ensure that they can exercise their democratic right to vote on polling day.

The helpline is currently available up to, during and after election day on Thursday 7 May to offer legal advice in relation to any problems people may have. 

You can contact Kate Egerton, a solicitor who specialises in human rights and equality law, on 0800 689 3289 for advice.

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