It’s your democratic right to be able to cast your vote in elections. On this page find out about accessible voting and asking for support at polling stations.

On this page:

Your rights as a disabled voter

Sense is here for you

We support people with complex disabilities of all ages.

From our free play sessions for children under eight, to our adult residential care services, we’re with disabled people and their families every step of the way.

Get in touch with our team to find out how we could support you.

As a disabled voter, you have the right to be able to cast your vote independently and in secret. 

By law, local authorities must take steps to make sure that you have the opportunity to do this. This means making sure that you have the support you need at your local polling station.

Nobody can be refused the right to vote for reasons of mental or physical incapacity. 

Polling station staff should be on hand to help you vote in person, and should make sure that you are not at a disadvantage when you’re voting. 

Find out more about what support to expect at polling stations.

Remember, you don’t have to vote in person. Find out about other ways to vote. 

Barriers to voting for disabled people

In our research, 24% of surveyed people with complex disabilities told us that they didn’t vote in the 2019 General Election. 

Of those who did vote, 13% told us they found this difficult or very difficult. 

In the upcoming election, 9% of people with complex disabilities told us they are not planning to vote. 

These are some of the barriers that could potentially make it harder for disabled people to vote in an election.

  • Not physically being able to access polling stations (for example, if you’re a wheelchair user and there is no ramp into the building). 
  • Not having access to information in accessible formats, like braille or Easy Read. 
  • Anxiety about travelling to polling stations or the process of voting itself.
  • Lack of access to auxiliary aids or seating that would make voting easier at the polling station. 
  • Polling station staff not having the right level of awareness or training to support disabled people. 
  • Lack of awareness of the support that can be provided. Find out more about what support you should expect when voting.
  • Not having a photo ID. 

Photo ID 

Following the introduction of a new law in May 2023, voters in England must show photo ID to vote in person at elections. 

Concerningly, our research shows that nearly one in five people with complex disabilities doesn’t have the photo ID they would need to be able to vote.

Forms of accepted ID include a valid passport, driving licence or blue badge. The full list of accepted ID can be found on the Electoral Commission website. 

Read our guide to everything you need to know about the voter ID rules.

What support to expect at the polling station

Polling stations have a legal duty to make sure you can cast your vote independently and in secret.

To make this possible, the Electoral Commission advises that all polling stations should have: 

  • Information about the election and how to vote. Information should be prominently displayed at polling stations, including larger versions of this information for visually impaired voters. This should include information in the polling booth itself, about how to mark your ballot paper. Some stations might also provide this in alternative formats such as braille, and other languages. 
  • Seating. Voters who can’t stand for long periods, or who need more time to think before casting their vote, should have access to seats. 
  • Magnifiers. These should be available for visually impaired voters who may need them to read the ballot paper and voting information. 
  • Tactile voting devices. These are plastic devices that should be provided to support visually impaired voters to mark their vote on the ballot paper. 
  • Large print ballot papers. These should be readily available for visually impaired voters. You can’t actually vote on a large print ballot paper, but you can use it for reference. 
  • Ramps and accessible polling booths. Wheelchair users should be able to access the polling station via ramps, and there should be polling booths available at wheelchair height. 
  • Pencil grips. These should be available for voters who need support with dexterity. 
  • Badges. All polling staff should wear badges to identify themselves. 
  • Appropriate lighting. All polling stations should have a good level of lighting, to make sure that people with visual impairments can see the faces of staff and their ballot paper. 
  • Disabled parking spaces. These should be available for disabled voters at all polling stations. 
  • Temporary alerters or temporary doorbells. Any doors that need to remain shut during the day should have a temporary doorbell or alerting device fitted. These provide a way for voters to let polling station staff know that they need assistance to open the door. 
  • Assistance with marking your ballot paper. Find out more about asking for support at the polling station.

Other support that polling stations may provide include hearing induction loops, or information available in Easy Read. 

All staff who interact with voters should be provided with accessibility awareness training.  

Find out more information from the Electoral Commission.

Asking for support at the polling station

You are entitled to support from staff at the polling station if you need it. 

You can ask staff to guide you around the polling station, and ask for more information about the voting process.

You can also have support with marking your ballot paper, from either:

  • The Presiding Officer at the polling station.
  • Someone you bring with you to help. This can be anyone over the age of 18. They will have to sign a written declaration stating that you have asked them for their help. They will do this at the polling station, with the guidance of the Presiding Officer.

If you can’t enter the polling station because it isn’t accessible to you, the Presiding Officer should bring the ballot paper out to you so that you can still cast your vote independently. 

This should be a last resort, as the polling station staff should make every effort to make the polling station accessible for you. 

Different ways of voting 

Voting by post 

You can apply for a postal vote, meaning your ballot paper will be sent to your home for you to complete and return.  

You don’t have to give a reason to vote by post. 

Remember to check the deadline for applying for a postal vote in time for the election. 

Apply for a postal vote.

Voting by proxy 

If you aren’t able to vote yourself, you can ask someone to vote on your behalf in certain circumstances. 

You can apply for a proxy vote if you can’t vote in person because:

  • You’ll be away on polling day;
  • You live overseas and have registered as an overseas voter; 
  • You have a medical issue or disability, or 
  • You’ll be at work or completing military service on polling day.

You must apply for a proxy vote at least six days before polling day.

Apply for a proxy vote.

This content was last reviewed in March 2024. We’ll review it again next year.