Being able to vote freely and independently is key to the electoral system in the UK but if you are living with sight loss or another disability having your say at the ballot box hasn’t always been straightforward.
Some of the barriers blind and partially sighted people face include their voting rights not being communicated in an accessible way, not having the support they need when registering to vote or voting, encountering physical, psychological and information barriers when voting at a polling station and issues with the fact that voting itself is a visual experience.
Reforms introduced through the Elections Act 2022 require that the officials who oversee elections make provisions for people with sight loss and other disabilities to ensure that voting is an accessible experience.
The Beacon Centre has also been working with the City of Wolverhampton Council to improve the accessibility of elections for local residents. Prior to the new Elections Act accessibility requirements, we had already developed sight loss awareness training for their officials and discussed opportunities to make communications accessible for all.
The new Elections Act was an opportunity to take this work further and bring in new partners to ensure everyone can have the support and information they need to vote. In recent months we have been working together to create accessible information and communications, improve their website accessibility and ensure that all voting locations are as accessible as possible.
Becky Green, Beacon’s Engagement and Lifestyle Manager said: “It has been a fantastic opportunity for us to work with the City of Wolverhampton Council in recent months. We have made recommendations and supported the authority to ensure voting is accessible to Visually Impaired people within our community. This has included making improvements to the accessibility of polling stations and making information readily available to VI people in preparation for voting.”
Laura Noonan, Electoral Services and Scrutiny Manager at the City of Wolverhampton Council said: “It has been an incredibly valuable experience to work with the Beacon Centre and our other partners to improve the voting experience of people with disabilities. By involving them upfront in our planning we have been able to put in place a range of improvements that we know will make a difference as they have been designed by people who understand the needs of people with sight loss, people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people with learning disabilities. We will continue to work with all groups after the election to build on the improvements and we would greatly welcome feedback from voters who visit our polling stations on the 4th of May 2023 to cast their vote in the local elections.”
You can find out more about voting in Wolverhampton here