On June 8th, many disabled voters experienced, and noticed, accessibility issues in their local polling stations that could have limited disabled people’s ability to vote.
El Jones, a disabled voter in the Greater Manchester area, said that while there weren’t any accessibility issues that affected her ability to vote personally, she noticed that her polling station was not accessible for wheelchair users. She said of the library that was her polling station, “the divide at the back of the room wouldn't comfortably fit a wheelchair, nor did the space allow for a wheelchair to turn around. There were no lower polling booths at all in either section.”
Ms. Jones added that she raised these issues with staff at the time. “They said "they would sort something if needed" but why couldn't it just be accessible like the fantastic library usually is? "They took an accessible space and made it the exact opposite.”
Another disabled voter said they noticed access to their polling station itself was an issue. “I'm not a wheelchair user but my polling station is the local nursery. The street it's on is uphill and can be tricky for folks with mobility issues.”
They continued, saying that inside the polling station itself was not very accessible. “The building itself has a ramp but the doorway is quite narrow and the foyer is small, just enough space for one wheelchair user to turn around in. There's really only room for two or three able bodied people, any wheelchair user with a helper would have to wait until the foyer & ballot room was empty. I'm [also] not aware of any bells or intercoms if people who can't fit their chairs through the doors need to get hold of staff inside the station.”
David Gillon, a disabled voter from Kent, also said that accessibility issues inside polling stations “weren’t improving."
When he went to vote in early June this year, he said that the “presiding officer apologised, [as the accessibility] issue I'd raised last year hadn't been fixed.”
He also said that the “physical location” of his polling station was an issue for him and that the “site” of the polling station itself “is also unsuitable”. This is because he says, it is “on [the] far side of a valley too steep to wheel down safely” in his wheelchair, and he struggled to reach it. He said that he “actually got jammed” in his polling station door when voting last year due to “using a slightly larger wheelchair”.
He says these issues are caused as polling station sites are “still clearly being picked by people who don't recognise the issues."
1 in 5 people in the UK have a disability, and many face daily accessibility issues when going about their day – including when going to their local polling stations, due to a lack of consideration and adequate support.