The ‘battle’ buses are zipping across the country as the race towards 8th June continues and the momentum is gathering from all parties as they announce their manifestos. The key issue though is ensuring people are registered to vote and all citizens are encouraged to use it, with barriers to doing so removed. United Response has produced some great materials to encourage greater participation for people with learning disabilities by explaining how politics works, how it affects peoples lives and how to get involved in politics.

With the General Election looming we asked our longest serving member of staff (21 years!) at ARC England, Lisa Marie White, what she thought about voting:

“I have always voted as far as I can remember, but much prefer voting by post rather than going to the polling station where there is always a queue. I voted by post for the local elections on 4th May. I know there are different parties to vote for that all have different ideas about what should be happening – we all should be able to vote for the people who get to decide on things that affect us and our lives!

“I think that it is very important for everyone to vote and if you have a disability you should still vote, even if you need a bit of help with filling in the form or understanding about who to vote for. I filled out the voting part of my form myself where you put a cross against the person you want to vote for (even though it makes more sense to tick the one you want) then asked my support worker to check I’d filled the rest in right and put them in the right envelopes ready for me to post.

“I don’t really understand the difference between the voting I did on the 4th May and the one that I need to do in June. I know a bit about Theresa May and Donald Trump as they’re always on the news. I know he is American but I didn’t realise until I was talking about this to my supervisor here at ARC that Donald Trump won’t be part of the elections. It made me realise that there’s probably a lot more to know about politics.

“My supervisor, Vicky, gave me the United Response Every Vote Counts Easy Read guides, and although I don’t need easy read myself as I only have a mild learning disability, it does set things out in a way that is very clear and I’ve learnt some new things – like the difference between the local and general elections and that an area an MP looks after is called a ‘constituency’ which I’ve heard of before but not really understood.

“Now I’ve had chance to read the guides I would say that everyone with a learning disability ought to have a look at them to see if there’s anything in them that they don’t know about. I thought I knew quite a bit about voting before but now I‘ve learnt a lot more! We should make sure that workers are fully aware of these guides if the person struggles with understanding how to vote and maybe help out by explaining which parties have said what they want to change or improve.

“I vote for my own sake, not because someone has told me to, but some people might need that extra bit of help. If you know someone who you think might need to know a bit more about the elections, please ask them if they want to look at the guides. Help them to vote too if you can.”

The easy read guides are available to download here. It’s not yet too late, help the people you support to register to vote and understand the importance of their vote today!