More MS news articles for July 2001

Disabled voters still being failed

18th July 2001
David Felton

Only one third of polling stations were accessible to disabled voters at the general election in May, according to research published today.

The Polls Apart 3 survey, undertaken by the charity Scope, found that of the 1,842 polling stations surveyed in 474 constituencies, as many as 69% could have been inaccessible to disabled people.

The most common barriers were steps, dangerous ramps and slippery floors, with only 51% of stations having level wheelchair access.

Although the survey revealed that access had improved since the 1997 general election, there was also an array of horror stories from individuals on polling day.
Inaccessible: only 51% of stations had level access

A first-time voter was forced to vote in the rain because a deep step barred entrance to the station, while a disabled man was forced to vote from his car because the polling booths were positioned our of his reach. Some people were forced to go home without voting.

Liz Daone, Scope's campaigns manager said: "Being able to vote is a basic right: it should be open to everyone. This report should shine a spotlight not just on election day but on any day, as most polling stations are in public buildings - schools and libraries - which should be accessible all year round."

Nick Raynsford, local government minister with responsibility for election law, said that he would use the survey findings to identify areas which needed to be changed. "We need to find ways, with the help of the electoral commission, for improved access to voting for disabled voters," he said. "This report will help us focus on the areas we need to address."

Scope has made a number of recommendations to improve access to the stations, including extending the Disability Discrimination Act to explicitly include polling stations and creating a local-authority action-plan to ensure that existing polling stations are all accessible for the next general election.

David Felton 18.07.2001