People with disabilities who voiced concerns about the accessibility of the election were ignored

Sonja Tutty

People with disabilities voiced concerns about accessibility running up to the election, but are only being heard now.

DCU postgraduate student, Catherine Gallagher said she is happy the media is beginning to cover the topic, but said many people faced obstacles when trying to vote in the last election.

Gallagher was only able to get to her local polling station in the evening as she was dependant on getting a lift, and due to the poor weather, her sister had to assist her into the building.

“I wouldn’t have had the confidence to even go from the car to the building on my own.” She added, “…what if I didn’t have my family with me what if they were sick or not around. I wouldn’t have been able to vote.”

She has scoliosis and a muscular disorder, and while she is not a wheelchair user, she has experience being in a wheelchair for brief moments.

“In terms of logistics and the voting station, I went to the national school, if you were a wheelchair user you wouldn’t have been able to use the booth because the table was too high.”

She explained wheelchair users have to contact their polling station to ask for a ramp, so accessibility to these buildings are not guaranteed. She said, “I would love to be in a society where we don’t have to go out of our way to make these measures – they are just there.”

In addition to accessible buildings and booths, she said postal votes could become an option for many. However, information for postal votes is very poor and can be difficult to access, so they have not been an option for many people.

But added, “The argument  [against postal votes] could be that you are shunning disabled people from the voting booth.”

She went onto express interest in e-voting but understood the issues of security and cost surrounding that possibility.

Overall, she said more thought should be put into which buildings are used. “In a lot of communities in rural Ireland have used the same national school, the same polling stations for years on years on year…we need to be able to open our mind to change for the greater good.”

“Improve the infrastructure, improve the information, make things accessible – it’s a no brainer – to me its common sense. But common sense isn’t too common anymore.”

Sonja Tutty

Image credit: Shauna Power