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Making it easier for people with cognitive disabilities to take part in politics

Everyone has a right to have a say in how our communities and our country are run!

Brooke Canham and William Ward-Boas from Inclusion Australia attended the Political Inclusion National Summit in August 2023.

The two-day online event was led by Inclusion Designlab and Melbourne University with support from organisations around Australia.

People with an intellectual disability, people with acquired brain injury, researchers, human rights experts and others came together to share their experiences of being involved in politics and voting.

Event organiser Nathan Despott from Inclusion Designlab said the event was not just about voting but making sure that people with cognitive disabilities have a say in all aspects of the way that Australia is run.

People taking part heard from local and international speakers about barriers that people with cognitive disabilities face as well as initiatives to make politics more inclusive for everyone.

Brooke was invited to speak on the first day of the conference. She told everyone about her experiences of talking to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters into the 2022 Federal Election: Making it easier to vote for people with an intellectual disability – Inclusion Australia

Brooke shared what would make politics and voting easier for her, liking the idea of ‘being more included and having more choice and accountability’ . She said one way to make voting more inclusive would be getting ‘Easy Read material beforehand which will help as this will be easier for me to understand and be more included – making my vote matter!’

She said that she likes it when she can vote with a family member. However,  ‘when we are queuing to vote, a separate line for people with a disability would be helpful as queues can be stressful’. Brooke also recommended having staff available to ask for help, if needed, and extra time to make decisions before voting.

Brooke expressed that she would also like the option of, ‘an online voting system, as I wouldn’t have to leave home, and I could take my time.’

William attended day two of the conference, which focused on future plans.

William reflected that there ‘were fantastic ideas talked about such as accessible formats of voting with Easy Read, having a person explain how to vote and guide through the process and how people with disability are treated because of preconceptions.’

He enjoyed discussions about how training is necessary in disability awareness, First Nations, LGBTQIA+ as well as the need for more cultural awareness training. William and Brooke told the summit that more accessible information is needed for the 2023 referendum about The Voice so everyone can have their voice heard.

William and Brooke agreed that the summit discussed some great ways to fill the gaps between politics and inclusion.

The summit also discussed next steps and ideas for the future, such as doing a campaign, a plan to make change and a project about Political Inclusion, so watch this space!