Torfaen County Borough Council is working with disabled people’s organisations to discover what can be done to help make its 70 polling stations more accessible.
Torfaen Access Forum, Sight Cymru and Disability Advice Project representatives have been working with the council to find out what challenges voters with disabilities may have when they vote at polling stations in the borough.
Caroline Genever-Jones, Elections and Business Manager, Torfaen County Borough Council, said: “We are visiting polling stations to see what improvements can be made, both outside and inside. We want to make sure everyone’s experience of voting is as easy as possible. People with disabilities face different barriers and we can better understand needs by working with people with lived experience.
“Where possible we will add things like temporary ramps, lighting, signage, visual aids and hearing loops. The feedback will also help us improve staff training.”
Professor John Hunt, Vice Chair at Torfaen Access Forum, said: “It is important that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to vote at their polling station as people without disabilities. Even though there is the option of postal voting it is not the same as casting a vote into a ballot box. We have highlighted some difficulties getting in and out of polling stations and suggested some changes inside stations to help people with sensory issues. We hope this will help improve the experience for disabled voters.”
Esther Weller, Awareness Officer at Sight Cymru, added: “Voting can be stressful for people who are blind, have sight loss or a visual impairment. Often you need assistance, so it is reassuring to know staff are trained and can offer support such as a tactile voting device, a large print copy of the ballot paper and magnifiers.”
New Voter ID Rules
Voters in Wales need to show photo ID to vote at polling stations in some elections.
This applies to:
Police and Crime Commissioner elections
UK parliamentary by-elections
From October 2023 it will also apply to UK General elections.
Voters in Wales will not need to show photo ID to vote at a polling station at Senedd elections or local council elections.
If you do not have accepted photo ID, you can apply for a free voter ID document, which is known as a Voter Authority Certificate.
To find out more about accepted forms of photo ID and how to apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate
Professor Hunt also commented that many disabled people are unable to drive or undertake foreign travel. He said: “There is significant risk the voter ID requirements coming into force could disenfranchise disabled people with no passport or driving licence. This is clearly another case where the consequences of legislation for disabled people have not been well scrutinised. I sense another campaign coming.
“Torfaen Access Forum is run by disabled people for the disabled residents of Torfaen. We strive to use our lived experience of the barriers to participation, to help deepen the understanding of TCBC officers and councillors. We welcome the support and listening ears given by the TCBC elections team in this polling station consultation. Engaging constructively is the most effective way to achieve changes in infrastructure and in attitudes. We thank the team for this opportunity.”
Torfaen Access Forum (TAF) holds regular meetings, bringing disabled people, organisations and public services together to discuss and raise awareness of the issues disabled people experience. TAF welcomes new members and would love to hear from you. Please email email@example.com for more information.
Charity Sight Cymru helps people with sight loss in Wales. It aims to prevent unnecessary sight loss and provide rehabilitation services. If you know someone who is struggling with everyday tasks such as seeing a clock face, or identifying a loved one by sight, please encourage them to get in touch. Telephone: 01495 763650.
Disability Advice Project provides advice and support for disabled people, their families and carers. It offers free advice on claiming benefits, community care services, advocacy support, Power of Attorney and access to services.
Telephone: 01633 485865 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org