Headlines: April 21st, 2010

Local authorities are being urged to act immediately to make sure polling stations are more accessible. The disability charity, Scope, has warned that some people may find it difficult to vote in next month’s elections but said it was not too late for councils to make a difference.

At the last General Election Scope surveyed 2,000 polling stations in England and Wales and found more than two thirds had one or more serious access barriers that could prevent disabled people from voting independently and privately. Almost two thirds of disabled people who opted for postal voting also reported finding the system inaccessible.

Problems at polling station included no access for wheelchairs, voting information in inaccessible formats and polling station staff who were unhelpful or unaware of disabled voters’ needs. Scope is running a campaign called Polls Apart to improve access to voting and has produced a checklist to help local authorities make improvements.

Richard Hawkes, the charity’s chief executive, said: “In a modern democracy like Britain, it should not be so difficult for disabled people to cast their vote.” He said they made up a significant proportion of the electorate and their needs could not be overlooked. He added: “It is not too late for local authorities to make a difference by doing things like installing temporary ramps or providing training for staff.”