Disabled voters take pioneering legal action over election access
Summary: A disabled campaigner is one of five blind and visually-impaired people taking pioneering legal action against their local councils over the failure to make voting in elections accessible to them.
Graham Kirwan, who is visually-impaired, has been trying to persuade Dudley council for nine years to make the adjustments that would allow him to vote independently, and privately.
Now he is one of five sight-impaired people who have enlisted legal firm Leigh Day to take up their cases, following complaints they made through the disability charity RNIB about problems they encountered in the run-up to the general election on 7 May.
The five were either unable to vote in the election or had their right to a secret vote compromised.
Kirwan and the other claimants say their councils unlawfully discriminated against them under the Equality Act, and also breached the Human Rights Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and the Representation of the People Act.
Article 29 of the UNCRPD, on participation in political and public life, protects the right of disabled people to “vote by secret ballot in elections”, and aims to guarantee that “voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use”.
The Representation of the People Act requires polling stations to provide a large print version of the ballot paper for reference and a tactile voting device to enable electors with visual impairments to vote independently.
But Kirwan and others say the system does not work in practice because the large print text is often not big enough, and the tactile voting device is not fit for purpose.
Kirwan said Dudley council refused to send him his voting information via email, rather than in the post, and failed to provide CCTV magnification equipment at his polling station that would have allowed him to read information about the candidates, because the large print information available was not large enough for him to read.
Even if that had been available, he believes he would still have been forced to ask someone else to help him cast his vote because the tactile voting device does not always work correctly.
Council threats that he could be fined £5,000 if he failed to fill in its inaccessible forms had already helped cause severe depression and anxiety, for which he is still being treated.
Dealing with the council, he says, changed him from “a confident blind person to one who went into rages, always angry [and]became anxious, could not sleep and found it difficult to communicate with others”.
Kirwan, who represents Dudley Centre for Inclusive Living on accessible information issues, is now 55 years old, and has never been able to vote, because of his impairment.
He told Disability News Service (DNS): “When you vote, it is private. I am denied that right. If I go and try and take somebody with me, somebody else could vote differently on my behalf and I wouldn’t know.
“I have rights to independence, choice and control over my life. That is all I want.”
Kirwan added: “It is just like I am excluded. It caused me stress. I don’t have a say in the decision-making that everybody else takes for granted.”
He says he will not try to vote again unless he can do so electronically.
Although there has been legal action around physical barriers to voting, this is believed to be the first involving the inaccessibility of the voting process to blind and partially-sighted people.
Kate Egerton, a discrimination solicitor in Leigh Day’s human rights department, said: “Some of the five had problems registering to vote, some had problems with the postal vote, and some had problems in their polling stations on the day.
“From start-to-finish, the whole system is inaccessible.”
She said they would be asking the courts to force the local authorities involved to make the voting process accessible to blind and visually-impaired people, in time for next year’s local elections.
Phillip Tart, Dudley council’s strategic director for resources and transformation, said: “Ballot papers are printed in the format as specified by the legislation relevant to each individual election.
“All polling stations are provided with magnifiers and selector templates to aid partially-sighted people to vote independently, [and]electors with disabilities can also be assisted by a companion or the presiding officer.
“Whilst we would be happy to talk with Mr Kirwan to understand his particular issues, for reasons of data protection we are unable to comment further, and we are not aware of any legal proceedings against the council at this time.”
Earlier this month, another legal action taken by Kirwan over the right to accessible information led to NHS England publishing its first accessible information standard (AIS).
The agreement to publish the AIS came after Kirwan took the NHS to court over its failure to provide his health-related information in a format that was accessible to him, via email rather than by post.
DNS first reported on Kirwan’s complaint two years ago, after NHS England agreed to set up an advisory panel to draw up the new “information standard”, as a result of his legal case.
He said the result was “brilliant” and would make a “massive, massive, massive” difference to tens of thousands of disabled people with sensory and learning impairments.
It will mean that all organisations providing NHS or adult social care will have to produce information in a service-user’s preferred format by 31 July 2016, and provide them with communication support if they need it.
Kirwan said: “Many will receive accessible health information for the first time, and most importantly in private. It will save NHS a lot of money in missed appointments.”
Source Disability News Service
Other recent news items:
- Doctors’ union finally agrees to spread the word
- Disability Politics UK: call to prioritise step free access
- Children with disabilities: targeted violence and hostility
- Dementia care: how social enterprises are developing products and services
- Adass spring seminar: four things you need to know
- The Disability Audit: the eight coalition policies that have hit disabled people
- DWP told to publish ESA deaths report, after two-year delay
- The struggle to find work when you have Down's syndrome
- PIP Delay Crisis Over, Claims DWP
- Meet Justin Tomlinson MP- New Minister For Disabled People
- A quick guide to new care minister Alistair Burt
- How to use your disability as a strength when applying for jobs
- Devastating impact of cuts on disabled people
- NHS ‘has wasted more than a year’ on latest bid to improve wheelchair services
- Five Thousand Disabled Adults Sexually Abused In Last 2 Years Says NSPCC
- ESA Claimant Takes On Maximus And Wins
- One in five benefit-related deaths involved sanctions, admits DWP
- Manchester United tell family with disabled son to watch Stockport instead
- Joint mental health commissioning strategy
- New parliament sees number of disabled MPs plunge
- Motability under spotlight over cuts to grants… despite £190 million reserves
- Disabled people ‘should come together in new national body’
- 'It's a great honour': Selby appoints UK's first mayor with learning disabilities
- Voluntary Community Social Enterprise Review website
- Cameron downgrades minister for disabled people
- Poor UK cancer survival rates linked to lack of GP direct access to scans
- Charity highlights role of siblings in supporting adults with a disability
- Queen’s Speech fails to mention social care funding
- Queen’s speech ‘suggests the worst is yet to come'
- TV industry must improve representation of disabled people
- The bionic suit helping wheelchair users get back on their feet
- New project to tackle mental health issues
- Equality watchdog contradicts football’s Premier League over access
- Schools 'must improve support for diabetic children'
- National Theatre plans shows on issue of disability
- Rise in mental health bed occupancy
- Watchdog writes to Man Utd after stewards confiscate walking aids from fans
- Government cuts ‘could see disabled people slide back to the bad old days’
- Disabled payment delay unlawful, judge rules
- The 'dragons' who want to help disabled people start their own business
- Boy, 12, wins £120,000 in damages after swine-flu jab left him 'severely disabled' by narcolepsy
- DWP ignores watchdog’s deadline over benefit-related deaths
- Man who cannot walk or talk called for jobcentre 'back to work' interview
- UK woman can ride bike for first time with 'world's most lifelike bionic hand'
- GPs to refer more patients with low-risk cancer symptoms under new NICE guidance
- Disability campaigners clash with police inside parliament over benefit cuts
- Indefinite Award DLA Transfer To PIP Will Start From July In Certain Postcodes
- Disabled children less happy with hospital care than peers
- ILF closure: Process has caused ‘fear, stress and anxiety’, say researchers
- Disability poverty rose sharply in fourth year of coalition
- UK services failing patients with dementia
- Shadow disability minister admits backing assisted suicide bill
- Disabled people's rights threatened by government cuts, campaigners warn
- BBC Three’s ‘Defying The Label’ Season
- From 'bloodied knees' to the House of Commons as a disabled MP
- Mental health patients sent hundreds of miles for beds as out of area placements rise 23 per cent
- Systematic over-medication blights learning disability care
- The Superhumans return to Channel 4
- Accessible Information Standard Approved
- Doctors demand return of lung cancer awareness campaign
- David O’Mar, 58, Found Fit For Work Two Weeks Before His Death
- World First Bionic Eye Gives Hope To Millions
- Seven-day NHS to include child mental health services, minister confirms
- Court hears appeal on ‘unfair’ PIP 20 metre rule consultation
- New report by Business Disability Forum cites lack of skills in line managers as major barrier to retention of disabled employees
- Tanni says 10,000 signatures could finally transform wheelchair services
- BBC3 presenter and journalist crowdfunding to transform the lives of people with disabilities in Ghana
- Disabled voters take pioneering legal action over election access
- Has disability sport lost its London 2012 Paralympics momentum?
- NHS Announce New Care Guidelines For Learning Disabilities
- Fresh evidence that ‘benefit scrounger rhetoric’ is causing hate crime
- Sanctioned Jobseekers With Mental Health Problems Are Not ‘Vulnerable’ Says DWP
- Clubs “Neglecting Responsibility” To Disabled Fans
- Latest Figures Show Massive Rise In ESA Sanctions
- ‘Bizarre’ figures raise fears over ministers’ plans for ESA
- School nurses ‘need better mental health training’
- Number of people developing dementia 'stabilising'
- Boy, nine, fitted with first prosthetic hand that can change grip with gestures
- Iain Duncan Smith criticises employers over disability employment gap
- Disability benefit sanctions soar by 30% in a year
- Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show
- Goths at risk of depression or self-harming, research says
- Elderly 'ripped off' in mobility scooter market
- GPs are missing cancer in children - because they 'don't have enough training'
- IDS announces 'fitness for work' U-turn that was five years in the making
- People with autism and learning disabilities excel in creative thinking, study shows
- Starbucks apologises for telling woman she was not 'disabled enough' to use the toilet
- DLA Lifetime Award PIP Transition Started from 1 September in 29 New Areas
- Successful 'Fit for Work' Appeals at Highest Ever Level, Show DWP Stats
- Why is our justice system failing vulnerable people?
- UN investigating British Government over human rights abuses caused by IDS welfare reforms
- Coroners 'ground breaking' verdict: Suicide was 'triggered' by 'fit for work' test
- Schoolboy calls for more disabled characters in children's books
- The quadruple amputee who needs the correct prosthetic
- Welfare to work programme failing disabled and ill jobseekers, say charities
- Disabled fans 'delighted' as Premier League finally acts on access
- Two-thirds of adult social care requests rejected by local councils
- Independent Living Fund: Government silence 'suggests something to hide'
- UK employers report rise in mental health problems: CIPD study
- UN inquiry considers alleged UK disability rights violations
- Parliament's own disability group picks first non-disabled chair in nearly 50 years
- Dementia drug 'keeps patients out of nursing homes'
- Disability benefit cuts will actually make it harder for disabled people to find work,coalition of 60 charities warns
- Problems with the care and treatment provided by the NHS and/or difficulties in accessing health services?
- Consultation on the proposed new adult social care strategy
- The Leicestershire Advice Service for Social Care is here to guide you
- Minister: MPs must help 'open doors' for disabled jobseekers
- 'Homes not hospitals': learning disability care to move to community
- Equality Act 'simply isn't strong enough' for BSL-users, peers are told
- Disability Hate Crimes Rise 41% In A Year
- Companies fear employing people with learning disabilities, survey reveals
- DWP cuts specialist disability employment advisors in jobcentres by over 60 per cent
- Watchdog 'must do more to support disabled people to fight discrimination'
- ‘We must keep banging the drum,’ says bus campaigner after five-year fight for justice
- 2,000 disabled people wrongly declared ‘fit to work’ by DWP in just three months
- Local authorities 'spend close to nothing on mental health'
- Rock band with learning disabilities release first single
- NICE seeks to improve diagnosis and treatment of cerebral palsy
- Premier League clubs face legal threat unless disabled access is improved
- UK’s progress on disability rights ‘patchy and tortuous’, UN told
- Peer pressure sees minister finally announce date for taxi access laws
- Stop the NHS slashing vulnerable people’s care packages in and around Leicestershire
- Minister tells industries to increase representation of disabled people
- Disabled children in England 'finding it increasingly hard to access council care'
- Wheelchair Rugby Loses Funding Appeal
- Plans that could force people into institutions could be ‘front line’ of national problem
- Young people 'fear stigma' if they ask for mental-health help
- Disability benefits process is 'inherently flawed', MPs told
- Businesses woefully ill-equipped to deal with Britain's rapidly growing mental health crisis
- Cash boost for pupils with special needs and disability
- PIP investigation: ‘Horrific’ suicide question sparks fresh assessment inquiry calls
- Disability report: Being disabled in Britain
- Stop PIP reassessments for patients with progressive diseases, campaigners say
- Patients with learning disabilities missing out on health checks
- Thousands have disability vehicles taken away
- Aspire announces GLL and LCiL as first partners to lead InstructAbility
- Easy read guide to voting by post
- Online campaign ‘could enable disabled people to affect election outcome’
- Health Committee inquiry and report: Brexit and Health and Social Care – People and Process
- Women’s Resource Centre report: the Impact of Austerity Measures on Women’s Voluntary and Community Organisations
- Disabled people ‘forced into dangerous workfare that breaches health and safety laws’
- Mental Health Foundation report: Surviving or Thriving? The State of the UK’s Mental Health
- Stirling University to launch home dementia app
- General Election 2017: What are the parties promising disabled people?
- Anger, resignation… and optimism in wake of general election result
- New disabled MPs pledge to fight for rights in parliament
- Queen’s speech: May ‘abandons’ election pledge on access
- The waiting time for a vital disability benefit has risen hugely in 6 months
- Almost 6,000 mental health patients sent out of area for care last year
- Patients increasingly forced to crowdfund their own wheelchairs as NHS provision not enough, doctors warn
- Years of austerity have left personal assistance in ‘very fragile state’
- Over Half Of Foodbank Users Are Households With A Disabled Person
- Prince Harry launches brain injury card in Suffolk
- Iain Duncan Smith says work capability assessments don't work and are 'too harsh'
- PIP investigation: 200 cases of dishonesty… and still DWP, Atos and Capita refuse to act
- Global blindness set to 'triple by 2050'
- My disability abortion bill could halt Britain’s slide towards eugenics, says Tory peer
- Jobcentre Staff Have An Alarming Lack Of Confidence Dealing With Disabled Claimants
- BBC initiative for disabled actors is a ‘wake-up call’ for producers
- Bus industry set to face fresh legal action over access to wheelchair space
- Government accused of breaching UN convention in its treatment of disabled people
- Theresa May admits UK mental health services are 'patchy'
- 2,000 children with learning disabilities left without a school
- UK faces UN examination: Government cuts caused ‘human catastrophe’
- Half of parents of disabled children forced to reduce working hours due to 'unlawful' cuts to school transport
- Summit meeting will aim to bring movement together on independent living
- Have you got the wrong impression about schizophrenia?
- Quarter of 14-year-old girls 'have signs of depression'
- Council’s review finds PIP ‘not fit for purpose’
- Epilepsy medication impact not shared
- What is universal credit - and what's the problem?
- Calls for Amazon to ban 'anorexia hoodie'
- Green man crossings 'too fast' for people with arthritis
- Mental health patients being failed as services face 'potent mix' of workforce cuts and rising demand, shows report
- Universal Credit helpline charges scrapped
- Hate crimes against disabled children rise 150 per cent in two years
- Modelling debut for boy, 11, with Down's syndrome
- Wheelchair access at Premier League grounds improved after campaigning
- Mental health sees 300,000 people leave their jobs each year
- Care Quality Commission report: Annual State of Health Care and Adult Social Care in England 2016/17
- Access to Work: ‘Scheme’s future in jeopardy through cuts and incompetence’
- Tailored treatment study aims to improve prostate cancer care
- Government admits disabled people have been receiving too little financial support from DWP
- Disabled people worry about telling employers of their condition
- Disabled woman takes DWP minister to court over PIP mental health changes
- Women and disabled people hit hardest by years of austerity, report confirms
- New year’s honours recognise campaigners, inventor and Paralympians
- Esther McVey makes disability benefits U-turn over payments
- Educational support for deaf children in England 'in complete disarray'
- Blue badge scheme could be extended to cover autism and dementia
- More than 220,000 people scored zero on disability benefits test
- MPs launch inquiry into online abuse of disabled people, following Katie Price petition
- Open letter from mental health activists probes charity’s links to DWP
- UK sick pay is found to breach international legal obligations
- Psychosis patients 'not getting best care'
- DWP promises no-one will lose out in huge review of 1.6 million PIP cases
- Majority of disability benefit claimants being left with not enough to live on, campaigners warn
- Suffragettes needed? The women still struggling to vote
- New 'miracle jab' promises to ease arthritis pain - and save the NHS billions too
- Antipsychotic drug found to relieve symptoms suffered by millions of people with Alzheimer's disease
- Government’s suicide prevention boss refuses to call for action on ESA risk stats
- Disabled peer raises ‘deep concerns’ over impact of Brexit bill on rights
- PIP assessments: 'Lack of trust' in benefits systems
- Anti-depressants: Major study finds they work
- More than a million benefits sanctions imposed on disabled people since 2010
- Thefts of disabled blue badge parking permits quadruple in England
- High Court rules Tories' disability benefit changes ‘blatantly discriminate’ against mental health patients
- Echolocation could help blind people learn to navigate like bats
- Call for government to ditch ‘discriminatory’ PIP rules for NHS care home stays
- Mystery over shock fall in disability benefits paid to older people
- Disabled passengers' champion unveiled
- Wheelchair users in UK to be given enhanced rights for bus travel
- Spring statement ‘shows disabled people will continue to bear brunt of austerity’
- House of Commons could replace benches with fold-down seats to improve access for disabled MPs
- NHS must prepare for `huge´ demand for new Alzheimer´s drugs, experts warn
- Access to work: Funding increase for disabled workers
- Doctors hope for blindness cure after restoring patients' sight
- New initiative to address ticketing barriers for deaf and disabled fans
- NICE: 'Care providers must ask people with LD what they want out of life'
- Disabled people struggle to afford food and heating, study says
- Government faces legal action over election access fund
- Disability-led ensemble to play BBC Proms
- Women across UK denied mental healthcare around childbirth, say doctors
- Robot helps Jack McLinden, 14, to be Everton mascot
- Cystic fibrosis: Company urged to lower cost of life-changing drug
- Disabled people split over personal health budget expansion plans
- Benefits applications forms to be made more accessible
- Government response to damning inquiry into disability benefit system 'falls short', say MPs
- EHRC appoints eight disabled people to advisory committee
- Sharp rise under-11s referred for mental health help
- Feel the beat: deaf fans fight for access to live music
- Health and Social Care Committee report: The Government’s Green Paper on mental health: failing a generation
- Disabled people face ‘hidden crisis’ in accessible housing
- Equality watchdog ‘considering legal action against government’ over rail access failures
- TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference: ‘Critically-flawed universal credit must be scrapped’
- Call for national research as fears grow over loss of DPOs
- DWP is failing ‘vulnerable’ claimants of universal credit, says watchdog
- US approves UK-grown marijuana-based epilepsy drug
- A Better Understanding of Chronic Pain in CP Patients Is Needed, Review Study Suggests
- Student mental health support must improve, universities told
- Minister lauds £600,000 for rail access… after her department confirms £47 million in cuts
- Scientists have discovered a new type of depression: Finding will pave the way for new treatments for 30% of patients who do not respond to drugs
- Penny Mordaunt becomes first ever government minister to use British Sign Language in Parliament
- Could psychedelics transform mental health?
- Disability Confident employers promise less than one job each on average
- Patients face autism referral and assessment 'lottery'
- Government will pay arrears to thousands of benefit claimants
- Antidepressant prescriptions for children on the rise
- Watchdog’s ‘issues of concern’ over regulator’s treatment of PIP complaints
- Blue badge scheme to provide ‘lifeline’ for mentally ill people
- Seven-year-old double amputee is cast by River Island to model its new active wear range - as the little girl's proud father says there's 'no stopping her'
- Thousands of mothers left to cope alone with mental illness
- International disability community sign up to progress
- Disabled children waiting too long for NHS wheelchairs
- DWP repeatedly breaches FoI laws ‘in bid to hide secret jobcentre reports’
- Quarter of 14-year-old girls in UK have self-harmed, report finds
- Scientists 3D-print a 'bionic eye' that could soon let blind people see again
- Autism dogs: Call for regulation as demand quadruples
- Minister snubs DPOs – and ‘breaches UN convention’ – by refusing meeting
- 'Black hole' in youth mental health support
- Anger over government’s ‘pathetic’ election access report
- Extreme Dwarfanators Wrestling organisers threaten to SUE Leicester arena for cancelling event
- 'The right trousers': Wallace and Gromit inspire artificial muscle clothing
- Are we really on the brink of a cure for Alzheimer’s?
- Parents in England seek legal action over special needs funding cuts
- Waiting times for disability benefit claims soar by three weeks in three months
- Many disabled people hide their impairments to avoid awkwardness, report says
- England amputees thank Premier League for World Cup funding after FA snub
- Police work on disability hate crime is ‘unacceptable’, say watchdogs
- Pregabalin and gabapentin to be controlled as class C drugs
- Government could pay out more than £1bn due to benefits 'shambles'
- Young people with special needs 'being failed in 44% of areas in England'
- Government ‘blocked’ involvement of user-led groups in mental health summit
- Two in five people with learning disabilities not diagnosed in childhood
- Call the Midwife actress Sarah Gordy becomes the first woman with Down's syndrome to receive an MBE
- Regulator sets out ideas for better assisted rail travel
- DWP ‘plans to move more benefits onto troubled universal credit IT platform’
- Retailers Need To Be Doing 'Purple Tuesday' Every Day Of The Year, Not Just A One-Off
- Watchdog calls on government to act ‘before it’s too late’ on impact of cuts
- Builders criticised for lobbying against accessible homes