The general election of 2015 and the EU referendum of 2016 have been two crucial opportunities for votes and voters to shape our future. But as a newly enfranchised disabled voter, Chloe Smith has felt ignored, poorly served and neglected when it comes to information.
As a young voter, I was incredibly excited at finally having an opportunity to have a say in the running of my country, when I turned 18 a few months ago.
But I was also a little lost – I was often unsure who and what to vote for when the time came, and so I watched debates and read as much information as was readily available from the parties, groups and politicians themselves, to see if they could try to convince me what would be the better option for me, particularly as a young disabled voter.
However, I quickly found that disabled voters and what would matter to them were often entirely ignored – there was not one sentence on how anything would affect disabled people or the disabled community – at least, not at the forefront of any manifesto, or in plain English in any political statement or on any party website. As soon as I was eligible to vote, and so had political leaflets sent to my door, and searched out political statements and manifestos, I expected to see political parties and politicians promise to improve accessibility, work on inclusiveness in the workplace and in schools, work on fighting hate crimes – or promise to work on any number of the other issues that affect us as a community. But to my dismay, did I find any of this in the political media that I was sent by the parties themselves? No. And for someone who was once so excited about voting, and was so ready to be informed about issues that mattered to me, and how politicians were trying to help work to implement and fix things to help improve elements of society for us, this was so incredibly disheartening.
Thankfully, due to articles from the likes of The Guardian and other organisations and news providers, I have managed to find evidence and statistics from either side of an argument, and often make my own opinion on what I think is the best option for me, in the few instances that I have been able to vote since I turned 18. But politicians and parties should also provide us with this information, and most definitely in the first instance, before we resort to trawling the internet for information.
But this is continually lacking in all political media, as if we were almost always an afterthought, or entirely forgotten by those who are trying to win the public’s favour.
How is this fair? It is incredibly frustrating to see us as disabled people left out like this. Politicians and their parties need to realise that our issues need to begin to be addressed, not just because they are important and pressing, but because we are people, too, and we deserve our issues as people to be considered as being just as important as any other that appear in any manifesto.
Starting to be able to vote, and even voting at all, is an exciting time, but a crucial one, where those in charge should be presenting us with information that we need to make sure that this vote is used in an informed way. We need to be told how policies that parties are promising will affect us as a community. We also, ideally, need to be told, from the mouths of the parties and politicians involved in an election, how issues that affect us can and will be dealt with. This lack of information and ignoring of us needs to stop, not least because there are about 12 million disabled people in the UK who deserve this guidance, and need the ability to make an informed choice.
Do you agree with my thoughts on how disability is ignored in politics, and how that is unfair? Have you had a different experience of politics as a disabled voter? Let me know in the comments!