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Making it easier to vote for people with an intellectual disability

In August 2022 the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters had an inquiry into the 2022 Federal Election.

The Committee is a group of politicians who talk about things to do with voting and elections.

One of the things they talked about was how to make it easier for people with disabilities to take part in elections.

Inclusion Australia made a submission to the Committee. We made recommendations about how Australia’s electoral process can be more inclusive and accessible to people with an intellectual disability.  You can read our submission here.

The Committee invited Inclusion Australia to take part a special panel with other advocates in April 2023 to talk more about our submission.

Brooke Canham and Maeve Kennedy from our policy team joined the panel to talk about our recommendations and answer questions.

Brooke took some time to share her thoughts on her experience with the Panel with us …

In April I spoke to a panel of people about the election, with my Manager Maeve.  I told them about how I vote. We also gave them some evidence by Inclusion Australia.

The panel included people from different disability organisations, including AFDO and Blind Citizens Australia. They talked about voting for people who are blind.

I gave an opening statement. This is a 5-minute message where you tell people what you want to say and what needs to change. You answer questions at the end, and there can be multiple questions.

In our statement we told the panel that we want to make sure it is accessible for people with disabilities to vote. We said it is your basic human right and we spoke about the UN Convention that protects people with disabilities.

I told the panel that it is important for me to vote. When I vote I feel like they are hearing other people’s perspectives and hearing from people who have a disability. It shows that we know who we want to win, and we understand about the election and the voting systems.

I can vote by myself, but if I get stuck, I ask my parents for help. I ask Mum after she votes and then she gives me a hand. I do know who I want to vote for, but I sometimes muddle the numbers up.

We also said that it is not good when people put How To Vote cards in our face when they go to vote. I don’t like having those papers thrown at you. That makes me very confused and very overwhelmed. I know it is hard for me and it could be hard for someone else.

We also said there should be more easy read information. There is some online, but it’s hard to find and it should be available in person on the day.

We also think people with an intellectual disability should be able to have more time at the voting stand. People might feel rushed. I have been told to hurry up as there are queues. It overwhelms me and it makes me scared that I’ll mess it up and my vote won’t count.

It would also be good to have someone to support you when you’re voting. We talked about Supported Decision Making with the panel and how that might help some people with voting.

It was good talking about these things with the panel. I was a bit nervous at the start because Maeve’s microphone wasn’t working but it worked in the end.  Some of the words were hard to understand. If there are meetings like this again about different things it would be good to break it down if there’s a person with an intellectual disability. That way I can understand without have to ask others.

I hope that by talking to the panel that there’s a change on how to vote out a better system format for people with disabilities.

Brooke Canham, Policy Officer – May 2023