Last week’s general election appears to have seen an improvement in access to polling stations for disabled voters, at least according to early reports.
Disability charities have been highlighting the access barriers faced by disabled voters for more than 20 years.
And last week, disabled voters who faced polling station barriers were able to secure free legal advice and support from discrimination experts Unity Law, by using the hashtag #PolledOut.
The #PolledOut hashtag was even trending on Twitter at one point on election day.
A Unity spokeswoman said: “Generally there were positive stories from the people who reported back to us.”
She said the early reports received by Unity suggested there had been a “significant improvement” in accessibility of polling stations since 2010.
But some reports of problems for disabled voters were passed to Unity’s lawyers.
In York, election officials moved an accessible voting booth for wheelchair-users after a non-disabled voter claimed that other voters entering the Monkgate polling station could easily look down and see how a wheelchair-user was voting.
A council spokeswoman said the presiding officer and investigating officer both confirmed that the voting booth had “adhered to Electoral Commission guidelines”, but that the accessible booth had been moved further away from the door “as a gesture of goodwill”.
Another case reported to Unity concerned a blind man who had asked for a large print ballot paper.
The man, who was accompanied by a sighted friend, was appalled by the reaction of the election official to his request, who reportedly said: “Oh, for God’s sake, what’s his number, and what’s he asking for now?”
When the large print ballot paper was produced, it was missing some of the candidates’ names.
As a result, the man was forced to stand at the end of the officials’ table while they corrected the error.
His friend was not allowed to assist him, with one of the election officials crossing the boxes for him instead.
Disability News Service has not been able to identify the local authority area where the incident took place, and so has not been able to verify what happened.
A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said he was not aware of any particular concerns for disabled voters, but that its official report into the election would be published in July.
14 May 2015
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com