Naomi’s Voting Struggle: Accessibility at Polling Stations

Naomi shares her experiences of voting, and highlights the need for greater accessibility at polling stations. She also shares her thoughts on how politicians engage with issues that affect disabled people.

For me, the whole process of voting is not only tiring, but also disheartening. The lack of accessible options and information makes me feel like my right to vote isn’t important.

With the general election coming up next week, it’s crucial to raise awareness about the challenges disabled people face when voting. I hope my story can highlight the need for better accessibility, and greater consideration from the government for people like me.

Naomi’s frustration with inaccessible polling stations

I always opt for postal voting now. Before that, it was a struggle trying to find out which polling stations were accessible.

The last time I tried to vote in person, my assigned polling station wasn’t accessible. The staff there gave me a letter to take to other polling stations, allowing me to vote there on grounds of access.

I remember driving around with my carer, going from one polling station to the next, only to find out that none of them were suitable. It was exhausting and frustrating.

We couldn’t get parked at the first one we tried. The next one, I got out with my wheelchair, but then found there was a large step to get in.

There weren’t any accessible polling booths at the last one we tried. By this point, I’d had enough. I just decided to go home without voting.

The ongoing barriers to voting accessibility

I learned from this experience that, even if a polling station is wheelchair accessible, there are often still so many barriers. For instance, the polling booth itself might not be accessible. There might not be a large print voting card for me, or a plastic reading guide for my ballot paper. Not all the polling stations I’ve been to have these, or I couldn’t find them.

Challenges of postal voting for disabled people

Postal voting has its challenges, too. For example, trying to get through to my local council to get my postal voting information in large print and also getting it posted out in time. And if you’re housebound and don’t have somebody to post your vote for you, then the problem is getting it to the post box.

For me, it’s much easier to vote by post, especially as I’m now largely housebound. Getting out to vote in-person in my wheelchair would be difficult, especially if it’s a day where my carer isn’t working a longer day and can’t take me out. The big change I would suggest is postal votes being collected. After all, Royal Mail can collect your letters, so why can’t they collect postal votes?

Lack of accessible voting information

It’s a nightmare trying to find the accessibility options at polling stations. There’s no guide for which polling stations are actually accessible, and what kind of accessibility options they each have.

From my experience, it’s clear there needs to be an accessibility map for polling stations. This map should detail the accessibility features available at each polling station. This would make it easier for disabled people to vote.

I think an accessibility map would be hugely beneficial to disabled people. It should have information such as:

  • whether there is parking available for Blue Badge holders to legally park. Or if the venue has step-free or short walk access.
  • polling card guides or polling cards in large print for visually impaired voters. 
  • accessible polling booths, seating, and accommodations for assistance dogs.
  • hearing loops and access for voters who are deafblind.

Disabled people often overlooked by politicians

I don’t believe the political parties and MPs consider disabled people adequately when making policies. I tried to see my local MP about an issue once, and their office wasn’t even accessible.

Disabled people are one of the biggest minorities in the UK, and yet we’re often forgotten by politicians. They don’t realise we play a part in society. But policies in areas like employment, housing, benefits, and the economy affect us.

The next government needs to do more to help mitigate the negative impact of policies that directly affect us. For example, more and more disabled people are having to use private health care. This comes at even more of an extra cost to us, and it’s because we’re struggling to get the care that we need from the NHS.

A call for greater political consideration

It’s crucial for disabled people to engage with politics because of how it affects our lives. But, until voting becomes more accessible, it will be a struggle for all of us to do so.

We need more consideration from politicians, and guidance and accessible information on voting - like an accessibility map. Maybe then, the process would leave me feeling less exhausted, and less forgotten.

If you can, I would encourage you to vote next week on Thursday 4th July 2024.

Scope is calling on all political parties to prioritise disabled people during this General Election. To see our recommendations for the next government, read our manifesto.