Learning Disability Nursing students from the School of Health Sciences (HSC) held an event on Saturday 3 June to inform local people with learning disabilities about voting in the upcoming general election.
The event aimed to encourage individuals to vote by supporting them in understanding the policies proposed by political parties.
Throughout the day attendees were able to meet political representatives, engage in discussions and debates, visit a mock polling station to understand their voting rights and experience the process of casting a vote. Party councillors and MP candidates were also taught preliminary sign language to aid their discussions with attendees.
At the Edith Cavell building were representatives from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party, all of whom prepared ‘easy-read’ literature explaining what their policies are head of the general election. The Conservative Party and UKIP did not send a representative but provided their manifestos.
Matthew Perryman, a student nurse at UEA who organised the event said that “it is important to explain politics to people with learning difficulties without bias, so events like these are helpful.
“[People with learning disabilities] might not always understand the wider issues, but they can meet people from the main political parties and make character judgements which are just as valid reasons to make a vote.”
— Jo Brown (@JoBrown_worker) June 3, 2017
The charity Scope recently revealed that there are over one million disabled people in the UK who are eligible to vote that, for an array of reasons, will not. Mr Perryman believes that “every vote is equivalent, and more should be done to make voting accessible for people with learning disabilities.”
Owen, an adult with Down’s syndrome and severe learning difficulties told Concrete that this would be his first time voting. He said that the he was having “a good time” and that he would be sending off his postal vote tomorrow morning with the help of his support worker. Owen most liked “the yellow colour” and said he would be voting for Mr James Wright, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Norwich South.
Speaking to Concrete, Mr Wright said that the event was “a fantastic opportunity for people with learning disabilities to meet the various party representatives and to talk through our easy-read manifestos.”
He added: “I would like to thank the organisers for putting this together, and for getting people with learning difficulties involved with parties and their policies.”
After lunch, the candidates and attendees gathered for a debate moderated by Dan, a participant with learning disabilities to discuss the importance of voting, cuts to education and disability benefits and other local issues.
— Cascade East Anglia (@Cascade_care) June 4, 2017
One attendee stated that “As a disabled person, I have not been benefitted by the Conservative government. I think we need a new government to care for disabled people.”
In response, the Norwich North candidate for Labour, Chris Jones noted how “lots of people voted for the Conservatives [in 2015], and they wanted to cut things.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Mr Wright added “This is why it is so important to vote on 8 June, so you can choose who makes the decisions.”
When queried further on the impact of Conservative cuts, Mr Jones said that “[Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party] all agree, but those who don’t are not present to take your questions.”