The current media saturation over Scottish Independence, whilst compelling for many and tedious for others, brings into focus the right of all adults to be involved in the democratic process. It has been suggested that poor turnout in recent elections is due to a general apathy among the population when it comes to politics.
My mother used to urge us to exercise our democratic right, saying that many women had fought long and hard and bitterly to get us that right. She was correct of course, and I am to this day propelled to the polling station at every election even if sometimes I cannot exactly recite the manifesto of the party I’m voting for.
Of course we do take our rights for granted; the Hear My Voice campaign brings into focus the fact that many adults still do not have the opportunity to learn about what voting means and why they should be concerned with it. They are often directly affected by the outcome of political change but have no help in making informed choices about the way the country is run.
Hear my Voice is a campaign to raise awareness of the electoral process and encourage more people with a learning disability to vote in the 2015 General Election. Mencap are promoting the campaign with the message that people can be influential in the decisions that affect their lives, such as health inequality, hate crime and hospitalisation away from home. These topics are not high on the agenda of any of the main political parties because they affect relatively few people and those few are not likely to be voters.
By alerting people to their rights and providing information and support to inform them about politics and the way it impacts on everyday life, Mencap hopes that more people will be able to step up and demand changes. Raising the status of people with learning disabilities will highlight to politicians this otherwise ignored group, helping bring issues that affect them to the consciousness of policymakers.
The campaign has produced a compelling manifesto document which I urge you to read as it demonstrates the impact on ordinary people of issues like health, social care and welfare reform. It provides some sobering facts and figures to highlight the point it makes and is something that provokes contemplation.
If you support people with learning disability, put aside your own politics and political view, or lack of it. Remember that our right to be heard in the important matters that affect us all was not easily achieved. To be able to put a cross in a box is about being able to have the views and opinions of each party explained and understood. Get your local candidates to engage with all of their constituents; demand that they provide campaign materials in understandable formats. Help provide the people you support with the plain and unbiased information they need to help them step up and exercise a choice.
A good friend of mine is a health professional who works with people with special needs. His comment today when considering the Scottish vote was this:
“If nothing else I am eternally grateful that, unlike other countries in the world, we have reached this national decision by way of the ballot box.”
Just something to consider.