MP Champions speak at Accessible Voting Webinar
My Vote My Voice and Ambitious about Autism were pleased to host a joint webinar for autistic young people on accessible voting.
We were joined by a panel featuring Accessible Voting Champions Emma Lewell-Buck MP and James Daly MP and representatives from the Electoral Commission.
First up was Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck, who spoke about her experience of being diagnosed with dyspraxia in her late twenties. She said her journey into full-time politics wasn’t by the “usual route” – and how being dyspraxic enables her to see things differently and significantly strengthens her role as a Member of Parliament.
We’re the ones who stand out, but we’re often the ones who put a different spin on things, who can think outside the box, and we’re the ones who drive for change.Emma Lewell-Buck MP
Although things have come a long way regarding disability awareness and the Equality Act, she said that society’s huge challenge is ensuring everyone has the equal right to vote. Emma also spoke of the critical need for all parties to make their information and policies accessible so that all voters know what they vote on.
When asked about disability representation in Parliament, Emma agreed that “we [Westminster] have a long way to go” before it was truly representative of the country it served, stressing that “Members like me are banging the drum on that on a regular basis.”
Over 1.5 million people living in the UK have a learning disability, along with up to 700,000 autistic people – yet just five current MPs out of 650 are open about their disabilities.
Next were Billie Dunne and Sarah Barker from the Electoral Commission, who delivered a detailed presentation on the logistics of voting. A range of topics was covered, including:
- What the Commission is and what it does.
- How people can register to vote, and the different ways they can.
- The Elections Act and the changes it is making.
- Voter ID and how to apply for it.
Closing the session was James Daly from the Conservatives, who spoke about the vital need for MPs to engage with disabled constituents regularly. This was especially important when presenting their activities as elected representatives in an accessible way that showed what they were doing for them locally and nationally.
I feel that certain sections of our society have not had an equal voice . . . and that’s one of the things that inspired me to get into politics, and I continue to learn [about their needs] every day.James Daly MP
Ali Gunn, Chair of the My Vote My Voice steering group said: “This has been a phenomenal session for young autistic people to directly engage with elected representatives, and MPs with them.
“Facilitating spaces for those crucial conversations is a core aim of our campaign. It’s our ambition to host more events like these, so we can help open the dialogue for young people and public representatives to learn from one another.”
You can watch the webinar in full here.