“Absolutely impossible”: Polling stations face accessibility issues ahead of election day

Written by Taylor Ogle

Casting your vote is a fundamental right, but for Walkley voters with accessibility requirements making it to the ballot box is an uphill battle.

Voters at Walkley Carnegie Library face six steep stairs up to the main entrance. The Grade II listed building’s rear door is also too narrow for wheelchair access leaving potential voters out in the elements.

Chris Reece, Chairman of the Walkley Carnegie Library Group acknowledged the issues: “It’s not a fully accessible building at all.”

The library applied for planning permission for updates to the building that included disabled access, but the renovations fell through after a £1.2 million grant application was unsuccessful.

In the lead up to elections, residents are voicing their concerns.

Anne Everson, 65, has been challenging the council for more accessible polling stations.

“It’s been a bit of a campaign of mine,”: the disability charity worker said.

Mrs Everson has been sending in formal complaints for the past several years asking the council to reconsider their polling stations with accessibility requirements in mind.

“Two years later with no elections, I find that the same polling stations are being used again. It’s just not acceptable,” she said.

Postal voting has been put forward as an alternative for voters with disabilities, but some feel that takes away from the experience.

Karen O’Halloran, 62, of Walkley uses a scooter and values voting in person: “It feels like I’m following tradition. There’s something significant in placing your ‘x’ on the ballot paper and positing it in the box.”

Despite recent renovation plans falling through, the staff at Walkley Library remain committed to improving their facilities.

Mr Reece said: “We know that access is not as it should be – we have been working on several projects to try to fund this – but we are looking to take that forward in one way or the other and we are in long-term discussions with the council about it.”

For now, Walkley Library has planned to have extra staff on hand to assist any voters who are unable to make it into the building. “If someone has to vote and can’t get into the building, which we deeply regret, then someone will be able to go to them and get their vote from them by the entrance.” the library chairman said.

Sheffield City Council has been contacted for comment. Sheffield City Council elections are held on 6 May.

Written by Taylor Ogle

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