General election: councils must ensure disabled people can access polling stations

5 June 2017

We've written to all local councils in England to ensure polling stations are fully accessible.

In the 2015 general election, we discovered disabled voters faced problems having their say at the ballot box. We don't want the same thing to happen this year on 8 June.

In the letter signed by our chief executive, Neil Heslop, we state that many disabled voters were left feeling like second-class citizens because of the experiences they had.

In 2015, we found almost a quarter (24%) of disabled people found it difficult to vote in person at polling stations. This included wheelchair users facing stairs, and no disabled parking.

In some cases large print ballot papers weren’t available, or voting booths were too narrow, with shelves out of reach.

‘There was a step up into the venue. My wheelchair could not be tipped back far enough to get over the step.

‘The staff did offer to come and help lift me over — which although was kind it wouldn't have been helpful or dignified at all, plus I was fearful of being dropped.

‘The booth shelf was too high so I had to complete the ballot papers on my lap for all to see. There was no privacy.’ — 2015 general election voter

Our research also found more than one in six (17%) of people found it difficult to vote by post.

Electoral Commission guidance

Guidance from the Electoral Commission says disabled voters should not be offered a lower standard of service than other people in their community.

Councils should make all polling stations in their area accessible to wheelchair users. Clearly marked disabled car parking, staff trained to advise and help disabled voters, as well as adequate lighting and support for visually impaired voters are also necessary.

Large print ballot papers need to be available.

‘Disabled people had to cope with some completely unnecessary barriers when they tried to have their say at the last general election.

‘Local authorities must ensure disabled people are able to exercise their right to vote by ensuring polling stations are fully accessible.

‘We can’t have a repeat of 2015 with disabled people treated like second-class citizens in elections.’ — Neil Heslop, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability