David Allkins speaks to BBC Radio Cornwall about Every Vote Counts

[Julie Skentelbery] Well of course over the election period,
we get used to politicians trying to track us down
as they canvas their potential voters.
Next tonight, we’re gonna meet the campaigner from Quintrell Downs who has been on their trail.
David Allkins, who has Asperger’s syndrome and works for the national disability charity United Response,
is currently on the beat trying to connect with local candidates ahead of the election.
The charity wants to make politics easier to understand
for the 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in the UK
and encourage more people with learning disabilities to get involved, take an interest and vote.
David is in the studio now, along with John Cooper, who is the United Response campaigns manager.
Good evening to you both.
[David and John] Good evening.
[Julie Skentelbery] So David, what’s the message you’re trying to get across when you meet the candidates?
[David Allkins] It’s the simple one of the United Response campaign Every Vote Counts,
including the votes of people with learning disabilities or physical disabilities
who, in the past, have been sidelined a lot
but with this election, we’re working to make sure that everybody has access
to easy read versions of the manifestos
and we spoke to the Returning Officer for Cornwall this afternoon
and he said that all the staff in the Returning Offices, voting offices, have been trained
to handle questions from people and to make the area easily accessible.
[Julie Skentelbery] Well in a moment we’re going to talk to John about the figures about the number of people with learning disabilities who are voting,
but let’s just take a break for Travel a moment.
[Julie Skentelbery] We’ve got David Allkins from Quintrell Downs.
He is a professional interviewer and campaigner, the political correspondent with United Response
and the campaigns manager is John Cooper.
We were just talking about the barriers for people with learning disabilities, and other forms of disabilities, from voting.
You’ve got the figures as to how many actually turned out last time, haven’t you?
[John Cooper] That’s right. Among people that we support, we found that only 1 in 3 people voted.
and that’s opposed to 65.1% of the general population who voted at the last election,
so that’s almost half.
We didn’t think that was good enough, and that’s why David and I have been campaigning so hard in order to break down those barriers.
We found there are two barriers to people with learning disabilities voting:
The first one is a lack of accessible information in the easy read format that David was talking about.
but also, secondly, a lack of understanding among politicians and candidates themselves
and David’s done a fantastic job of raising awareness about this issue.
He’s had messages of support from all five of the main party political leaders,
culminating today in a video message of support from David Cameron, the Prime Minister.
[Julie Skentelbery] That’s pretty impressive.
And what do you feel, David, that you’ve learnt from meeting all of these politicians?
What I’ve learnt mostly is that they all want to get their message across in their own way,
so if you just tell them that the election’s going to be tight this year,
and there’s a whole slice of people who have valid concerns and want to be listened to,
then they start paying attention.
[Julie Skentelbery] And what about people that you meet with learning disabilities?
How difficult is it for you to persuade them they should really take notice and get involved?
I think… because politics tends to be regarded as something you’re supposed to instantly know everything about
as opposed to something where you actually need to have it explained…
If you look at the news, it’s often assumed you’re instantly going to know who this person is
or what this office of government does, what this department does, but it isn’t like that.
That’s one reason that people get put off politics.
There has been a steady sense of politicians being of a class apart from us,
and while politicians are becoming more diverse, that’s still a very powerful image that many people have,
but I think that one’s slowly, gradually fading.
[Julie Skentelbery] Well that’s brilliant news, and thank you so much for coming in.
You’re continuing your campaign tomorrow, I believe, in Cornwall?
[David Allkins] Yes, we are.
We have already interviewed the UKIP candidate and Stephen Gilbert, the Lib Dem candidate,
and tonight we’ll be interviewing the Labour candidate, and tomorrow we’ll be interviewing the Conservative candidate and then the Green candidate.
[Julie Skentelbery] Okay, well, a busy man!
Thank you so much for sparing us some time, both of you, John and David.
[David Allkins] Thank you very much foir having us on.
[John Cooper] Thank you.

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