Social media has played a big part in the 2015 election, none more so than for many community and charity groups. It’s a communications channel that lends itself to political engagement, its instant, impactful and its cost-effective.
Some of the more notable grass roots campaigns lobbying our prospective MPs have come from the disability community including Scope’s 100 Stories in 100 Days campaign, Mencap’s Hear My Voice campaign and United Response’s Every Vote Counts campaign.
The political parties could learn a lot from the disability charities about the power of storytelling as a form of campaigning.
The engagement generated by the disability charity campaigns is impressive, Mencap alone got 743 parliamentary candidates signed up to their campaign and had over 2,000 people with learning disabilities emailing their MPs. Disabled people make up around one in five of the UK population, or 12 million people, but they are some of the most excluded in our society. In an election that seemed too close to call, it was interesting that some of the main parties did attempt to actively court disabled voters.
Yes, the party manifestos were produced in ‘Easy Read’ by the seven main parties, a format which helps people with learning disabilities, and incidentally also helps people whose first language is not English or those of us who do not wish to read long, boring documents. The Labour Party actually went as far as launching a programme of change for disabled people during the election campaign.
But, and its a big but, according to a report by the e-accessibility charity AbilityNet none of the seven main party websites are actually accessible to disabled voters. In an election where digital communications were paramount that was not only a wasted opportunity to engage with a larger audience it was, in fact, against the law.
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