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Candidates told: voices of learning disabled must be heard

This news post is about 9 years old

​Leading charity implores election candidates to work towards full inclusion

A leading disability charity is urging prospective Scottish MPs to hear the voices of people who have learning disabilities - in a bid to make the country more inclusive.

Enable Scotland says that with no overall majority predicted at the general election, and a number of smaller parties potentially holding the balance of power, every vote counts.

It has joined forces with its sister organisation Mencap in England to drive forward the Hear My Voice campaign - focussed on empowering and supporting people with a learning disability to tell their stories and challenges to MPs in the lead up to the election.

So far 350 prospective MPs, including the UK leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, have signed up to show their support.

Jan Savage, the charity’s assistant director of campaigns and membership, said: “People who have learning disabilities too often face lifelong exclusion and lack of opportunity to be part of their community, through work, transport, access or welfare.

Their voices are too often not heard by those who represent them

“Only 7% of them will have a paid job, and inequality means their life expectancy will be 20 years lower than the rest of the population.

“But their voices are too often not heard by those who represent them.

“These issues are rarely debated and most politicians don't understand how these things impact on people’s lives.

“That needs to change.”

The charity has written to every Scottish candidate, asking them to make a public commitment that they are listening to and, if elected, will represent the voices of people who have learning disabilities.

Savage continued: “Traditionally the number of people who have a learning disability who vote is low, around 30% at the last count.

“Yet a recent survey by our sister organisation, Mencap, showed 70% intended to vote.

“Unfortunately the survey also found that 60% of people with learning disabilities found the process of voting too difficult and, more worryingly, 17% had been turned away from the polling station because they had a learning disability.

“That is outrageous.

“People with learning disabilities should be supported and encouraged to vote, not excluded and turned away.

She added: “The right to vote is just that and having a learning disability does not qualify that right on any grounds.”