We work to help make sure everyone’s experience of voting is as easy as possible. Everyone should be able to cast their vote independently and with confidence. When you get to your polling station on 6 May 2021, there will be a number of things available to help you cast your vote.

Accessibility on polling day

Voters have a choice on how to cast their vote at the May 2021 elections

Different polls will take place across the UK in May 2021 including elections for the Senedd, Scottish Parliament, English local governments, Police and Crime Commissioner and London Assembly and Mayor. Some of these polls were due to take place in May of this year and were postponed as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in the UK. This means there are two years' worth of elections happening next year.

You can cast your vote in these elections in more than one way - in person, by post or by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf, this is called a proxy vote. We don’t yet know how the public health situation may have changed by May, but your local council will be putting in place arrangements to help you stay safe at the polling station. You can expect many of the measures you’ve become used to over recent months in banks, shops and other indoor spaces, such as hand sanitiser, floor markings and face masks.

People across the electoral community work very hard to try and make voting accessible for everyone. Yet, we know that there is more that can be done to improve the experience of all disabled voters. Everyone has the right to receive all voting information in accessible formats and to have an accessible voting experience no matter which method of voting they choose to use. It is the responsibility of local electoral services to provide this information and make people aware of what they are entitled to and what accessibility options are available.

For anyone with a disability who wants to vote in person at the polling station, there will be additional support available. This includes:

  • a tactile voting device. This is a template designed for people with sight loss, which is fixed onto the ballot paper so that you can mark it yourself. Polling station staff will read out the name of the candidates on the ballot paper for you
  • a large print sample version of the ballot paper. This is clearly displayed in the polling station and a copy will also be available for you to take into the polling booth to help you to mark your paper
  • help to cast your vote. You can ask the member of staff who is in charge of the polling station to help you mark your ballot paper; or bring someone with you who is over 18, and eligible to vote in that election, to help you cast your vote. Blind and partially sighted voters are also able to take their phones into the polling booth to help them to vote. For instance, to use magnifier or text-to-speech apps, or the phone torch to improve lighting
  • each polling station should have a ramp or a separate entrance, so that everyone can access it. If you do experience any problems getting into your polling station, a member of staff can come to assist you and can bring your ballot paper to you so you can cast your vote, if helpful
  • a wheelchair accessible polling booth in every polling station

For anyone wanting to vote by post, you can apply now. This will ensure your application is processed early, and your postal vote can be sent to you once the candidates for the elections are confirmed. Find more information about how to apply

For voters with sight-loss or other disabilities, voting by post allows you to:

  • cast your vote in your own home, using a screen reader or other equipment. Or with the assistance of someone in your household
  • request alternative forms, such as a large print ballot forms for reference
  • request help from your local authority with returning the completed ballot form, or indeed asking someone you live with to help you post the ballot paper

Some blind and partially sighted voters in the UK still face barriers to voting

Accessibility is not just about getting in and out of the polling station. Some people with disabilities often face issues voting independently, and sometimes aren’t made aware that postal voting and registration documents are available in accessible formats.

We work alongside partners across the UK to make sure people know they can register, and are aware of the options available to them on how to cast their vote. In Wales, we are working with RNIB Cymru ahead of the Senedd election on 6 May to make sure that blind and partially sighted voters know how to vote with ease and confidence and understand the support available.

RNIB’s latest Turned Out report is important in understanding the voting experience of blind and partially sighted voters, and it highlights many of the challenges they face each time they want to engage with our democracy. The report found:

  • less than half (46 per cent) of blind and partially sighted people are satisfied with their experience of voting
  • at the polling station, nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of blind people and a third (32 per cent) of partially sighted people had to get another person to help them to vote

We provide guidance to polling station staff to help them make sure that polling stations are accessible to everyone. To help staff better understand the difficulties that people with sight loss could face when they vote, we partnered with RNIB to create a video that brings to life the experience of someone with sight loss when they go to their local polling station to vote and the challenges they face. This video is included in the training that polling station staff receive before an election.