Making democracy more accessible

Oldham Council chief executive Harry Catherall has agreed to a review of the arrangements for the counting of the election vote next year to ensure that all is being done to ensure it is accessible for people with varying disabilities.

After local Liberal Democrat Councillor Sam Al-Hamdani wrote to him following this year’s count, highlighting some of the positive aspects, but also some of the weaknesses, he agreed to discuss what could be done next year to make it better.

Sam said: “We want as many people as possible to be involved in politics, whether that is increasing the numbers of people voting, or making it easier for people to stand to be elected.

Sam Al-Hamdani at the Civic Centre

“Making the process more accessible is just one of those steps.”

Unlike many other counts, results in Oldham were published on screen behind returning officer and chief executive Harry Catherall, improving things for those with a hearing impairment, and the count took place in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which has stair-free access. However, there was no straightforward access to the counting tables for anyone in a wheelchair, for example, a problem that will be exacerbated next year with the all-up elections, which are likely to make the count much longer and more crowded.

Sam continued: “I am well aware that there were and will be a number of candidates with varying disabilities, some of which aren’t visible. As a council, and a borough, we always need to be taking action to show everyone that they are welcome, valued and that we take down any of our barriers that restrict them.

“There are so many ways in which people can feel excluded from politics – this is just a small one, but it is one we can simply and immediately address. I’m very happy that Chief Executive responded so quickly to take up my request.”

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