Disability and the Voting Booth

Scope (formerly the Spastic Society of Victoria) today announced that one-third of people with disabilities who voted in the recent Federal election had difficulty accessing polling booths. This is one of several findings from the inaugural 1-in-4 Poll, another survey initiative of Scope.

The Scope 1-in-4 Poll is a unique initiative to create a panel of over 1000 people with disability and their family members and carers from all parts of Australia. These households will be surveyed several times a year on a wide range of issues. Through the poll, Scope plans to give people with disability, their families and carers, a voice and to ensure that their voice is heard by key decision-makers.

For the first survey, a total of 2200 households were questioned immediately following the Federal election, revealing that the majority of people with disability do vote; in fact, more than 3.5 million (91%) did so in the 2004 Federal election.

The difficulties experienced by voters with disability included a lack of disabled parking and access ramps, difficulty in negotiating steps and absence of disabled signs.

Australian households are fairly evenly divided in regard to the job the Federal Government has done in improving awareness and tackling discrimination against people with disability (47% positive, 42% negative, 11% don't know). However, only 14% say the Government has done a "good" job, while more (32%) say the job it has done is adequate. By comparison, this result is similar to findings in Scotland where only 13-14% said the government had done a "good" job.

Males with disability are slightly more negative (46%) than females (38%) of the Federal Government's performance in improving awareness and tackling discrimination against people with disability.

While 38% of people with disabilities are negative toward the efforts of the Federal Government, carers are much more critical with 50% giving negative responses. These results, coupled with findings of Scope's recent Carer Survey that suggest the majority of the burden has been transferred to carers who commonly experience high levels of anxiety and stress.

Of the households with disability surveyed, around half receive no support assistance, 25% receive less than 30 hours of support per week and 20% are getting 30 hours or more of support a week. This suggests that a staggering 1.9 million Australians with disability receive no support assistance and 950,000 receive less than 30 hours per week.

Of the 9% who did not vote in the Federal Election, nearly half indicated that this was because they were not on the electoral roll - if this is the case, those who are not on the voter roll may need further support to become registered.

The Poll also indicates that households with disability in rural and regional areas of Australia are more positive toward the Federal Government than in metro areas. In rural and regional areas, a majority of disability households (55%) think the Federal Government has done a good or adequate job in improving awareness and tackling discrimination against people with disability. Not so in metropolitan areas, where attitudes are significantly less positive with 49% of households with disability saying the Federal Government has done a "poor" or "terrible" job.

The 1-in-4 Poll also reveals a greater incidence of disabilities that are non-physical (e.g. intellectual/learning disabilities) in metropolitan areas than in rural/regional areas.

Households with physical disability are more positive toward the work of the Federal Government (50%) than those with intellectual/learning disabilities (37%). This indicates disabilities that are less "visible" (i.e. intellectual/learning disabilities) do not receive as much Government attention as those that are more "visible" (i.e. physical disabilities). In light of this, more programs to increase awareness and tackle discrimination of non-physical disabilities are needed.

About Scope:
Today almost four million Australians are living with some form of disability and one-in-four households in our society has someone with a disability. Scope's focus is on overcoming the personal, structural and attitudinal barriers that often prevent people with disability from participating in community life.
For further information about the Scope 1-in-4 Poll visit: www.scopevic.org.au