Weekly Poll – Scottish Parliament Election 2021 (Week Beginning 3 May 2021)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 3 May 2021, we asked two questions about the Scottish Parliament Election.

Results

Question 1. Ahead of the Scottish Parliament election, have you received information from political parties in a format that is accessible for you? 

  • YES – 73% (57 respondents)
  • NO – 27% (20 respondents)

Question 2. Are you satisfied by the pledges that political parties have made for disabled people in their manifestos?  

  • YES – 14% (11 respondents)
  • NO – 86% (67 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Accessible Formats

In the lead up to the Scottish Parliament election, Disability Equality Scotland launched a manifesto tracker to highlight the accessible formats of manifestos published by the five political parties elected in the last Scottish Parliament. Respondents to the poll criticised some of the political parties for the failure to ensure a variety of accessible formats were available at the same time as the launch of their manifestos. This has resulted in less time for disabled people to access the formats that match their communication strengths and preferences. In some cases, accessible formats were not available by the time some respondents had cast their postal vote.

“I voted by post and my vote was away by the time many accessible versions of documents were produced. My son has a brain injury and found easy read helpful but hard to get in good time!”

“One thing I would like to point out to the parties is that many disabled people use postal votes. Some parties didn’t upload the accessible versions until the end of April or start of May. It’s a bit late if the manifesto comes out after you’ve posted the ballot paper. For others, it can take time to read and understand a manifesto and have things explained to you. Posting a manifesto the day before isn’t allowing people time to understand what it is about. Accessibility isn’t just being in the right format it is having the time and support to understand what is being said.”

“I have a slight concern that some of the manifestos were rushed out in accessible formats rather than this being a considered part of the campaign. Three of the five parties appeared to have released all the formats at the same time which reinforces the view of inclusivity. The other two appear to have rushed it out at the end (the formatting and errors in the easy read versions would seem to bear this out as well).”

“I am extremely disappointed in the lack of different formats available from most of the political parties. Very disappointing that both braille and sign language were not covered by these parties. Do they forget that disabled people have a vote? I think only one party covered either all or the majority of formats available so it shows it can be done so if one can surely they can all do so.”

“Scottish Labour took too long in my opinion to provide accessible formats of their manifesto. When I looked at the manifesto tracker on the night of the April 30 only large print was available, by May 5, the day before the election they had all formats apart from BSL. While I’m not sure when the other accessible formats were published, I don’t think it is fair to do it with less than a week before an election.”

“The SNP were head and shoulders above the other parties, but even they took too long to make the BSL version of the manifesto available.”

“As a member of the Green disabled group I was pleased at the speed they did the majority of the assessible formats, on the same day the actual Manifesto was released, which is an improvement from before.”

Requesting Accessible Formats

It is also important to ensure that there are a variety of methods in place to request alternative formats, such as email, telephone and SMS text. At Disability Equality Scotland, we host the Inclusive Communication Hub, a website dedicated to inclusive communication guidance and resources: www.inclusivecommunication.scot

“In terms of inclusive communication, again we weren’t clear how you would ask for this format to be sent to you, other than phoning/contacting your local MSP’s constituent’s office in order to ask for this.”

“Yet again, all I ever received was leaflets through the door, many in the form of letters with no details of how to request copies in other formats.”

Election Leaflets

Disabled voters were unable to find information about pledges for disabled people in any of the election leaflets that are commonly posted through household letterboxes.

“Any literature that I have received mentions nothing about disabled people. Their leaflets are intended for non-disabled people.”

“I have not seen a single mention of disability issues from any of the leaflets that came through my door, and I got them from every major party and a number of fringe parties like the Scottish Family Party. Perhaps the full manifestos contain something, but those are often long and overwhelming to try to sort through, unless I’m on a particularly good day.”

“None of the leaflets that came through the door mentioned disability.”

“I did not know about accessible manifestos until today. I have been inundated with printed materials from all parties, including several from the same party more than once a week. On all the written literature there has been no mention of disability policies.”

Manifesto Pledges

A large majority of respondents (86%) were not satisfied by the pledges that political parties have made for disabled people in their manifestos. Respondents made specific reference to the issues that matter to them the most and questioned whether political parties had gone far enough to address existing inequalities.

“Pledges (which are few and far between) are scant to say the least, and yet again disabled people are being overlooked. Having written to every party asking them what they intend to do to make our streets safer and easier for disabled people to navigate, not one replied.”

“The manifesto from all parties do not meet the needs of the ordinary working disabled person. We need better life/ work options in that we get penalised if we take time of work for what effects our disabilities have on our work. We shouldn’t have to be thought of as skivers or shirkers because in any given month we might be off twice or three or four times which then you have the worry of going back as it counts as sick days then you get referral to HR which aggravates or conditions more with worry etc.”

“Several manifestos I have read didn’t really mention anything regarding disabled people. In fact, I was quite surprised, and not happy. They did have promises for carers, so at least that’s something.”

In contrast, a proportion of respondents welcomed various pledges made by political parties, including commitments to create an Accessible Home Standard, a National Care Service for Scotland and a Commissioner for Learning Disability and Autism.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that this time all the major parties seem to be making an attempt at catering for people with disabilities. This is much better than the last set of elections. This is the first election where I feel I have the ability to make an informed choice. For me this information does have a significant effect on who I would consider voting for – it has ruled out two parties.”

“So happy to see a pledge from some of the major parties to introduce a Commissioner to fight for autism and learning disability rights.”

“In my region the SNP are the only party to have seriously engaged with people with disabilities and seem to be looking for inclusion. Though the Lib Dems score lowest in the manifesto scoresheet, to be honest the local candidate seemed to have more interest in disability that the scoresheet indicated.”

“A National Care Service is going to be a game changer for disabled people if done right.”

“Firstly, I am a Scottish Green supporter. I believe that they have created a manifesto that does take into consideration different aspects of disabled life for example, having funds for town and city centre reorientation. I think that they also are aware that government have to lead by having the different forms of accessibility to be the norm, having it be the norm within the education system and workplaces, the hard transition to adulthood which is not the same for everyone.”

“I welcome a new Accessible Home Standard which is going to be needed for the future.”

Funding and Delivering Pledges

Some respondents questioned how political parties are able to fund the pledges featured in their manifestos.  There was also consensus amongst respondents on the importance for political parties to honour their pledges once elected.

“Not sure how the parties are going to keep their pledges, but let’s hope they will at least lessen the harassment we receive from the DWP.”

“All the main parties are making pledges way beyond their financial capabilities, especially given the massive debts incurred as a result of the ongoing pandemic.”

“Empty promises that no party will keep or achieve. Promises being made by individuals with no experience of disability and no input from disability forums.”

“All talk but never keep to their pledges. Money at one-time would go up to services every year but health board and councils are cut year on year and charities are being warned there will be cuts in the future.”

“They all promise you the world; but do they deliver it?”

Conclusion

Disabled people criticised some of the political parties for failing to have a range of accessible formats at the same time as the launch of their manifestos. It is also important to ensure that accessible communication methods are in place to request alternative formats. The majority of respondents (86%) were not satisfied by the pledges that political parties have made for disabled people in their manifestos, with some suggesting that the pledges do not go far enough to address existing inequalities. In contrast, a portion of respondents praised some of the parties for engaging with disabled people and pledging to reform social care, improve accessible housing and creating a Commissioner for Learning Disability and Autism. It is of the upmost importance for political parties in power to deliver the promises that they have pledged.

Disability Equality Scotland, May 2021