Last week, in the first of this mini-series of blogs, I discussed voting and the whether it is or is not accessible. This was stimulated by the launch of national voter registration day, which encouraged people to ensure that they were on the register for voting at the upcoming general election. A laudible attempt to promote one of our basic democratic rights, but one that may seem quite hollow to many as the voting process continues to be problematic and inaccessible for many visually impaired people.
Now taking into account that we’ve registered to vote, how accessible is the material put out by the political parties in then ensuring that they attract our votes on election day? For a number of general elections, the main political parties have put out their manifestos in alternative formats. Additionally, as the internet has grown and the use of online information has developed, the policies of the main parties have been shared more widely. However, taking into account that manifesto documents are not exactly edge of the seat reading or indeed online content accessible to everyone, its important that political parties must keep reviewing how they are putting their messages across and making them relevant to all audiences. This is especially relevant at a local level where individual candidates cannot totally rely on sticking a leaflet through the door and hoping that someone somewhere might read it.
I must admit that it baffles me when I hear politicians talk about gaining opinion on the doorstep or when they knock on doors to gather the thoughts of potential voters. For many years now (and through a number of local and general elections), I never had a candidate knock on my door. In fact, talking to many others, neither have they either. Yes, I’ve had my fair share of what I gather to be election material, but as this has been useless to me, I’ve simply kept the local recycling plant busy by reposting it into my green bin. Mind you, I would say that many of you who can see have done exactly the same with the leaflets that have come through your letter box?
As recent campaigns (such as the high rate mobility DLA and the social care bill) have shown, the vote of visually impaired voters should never be ignored or assumed not to matter. Politicians need to engage more positively and realistically with the people that they are seeking to be endorsed by. This means talking and more importantly listening and making themselves more accessible to us all. Yes, consideration must be given to making all election documents (includes leaflets) accessible, but it is about time candidates across the land started doing what they say they already do – knock on doors, stand on doorsteps and make yourselves more accessible. You never know, it might even make the drive for greater accessibility at the ballot box become more a reality at last.
Now, how accessible is voting itself? In the third and final part of this mini=series, I’ll look at this and see how the voting process causes difficulties for many visually impaired people.