Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Blind water skier backs voting drive for disabled

Blind former world waterski champion Janet Gray is due at Stormont today to launch an election initiative aimed at people with disabilities.



The Lisburn sports personality of the year is taking part in the province's first election registration awareness week, spearheaded by chief electoral officer Douglas Bain.

The message - after the annual canvass was abandoned last year - is: 'Don't get missed, get on the list'.

Gray, who made a remarkable comeback last year after almost dying in a freak training accident, was mixing with senior politicians including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and election officials including the new head of the Electoral Commission, Henrietta Campbell.

Mr Bain said: "Electoral Registration Week is about making sure that everyone can exercise their democratic right to vote and that means that they must be on the Electoral Register.

"It's now easier than ever, continuous registration has replaced the old annual canvass, so rather than having to complete a form every year, people now only have to register once and they can do that at any time of the year. After that, people just need to let us know if they change their name or address.

"This year I am making a special effort to encourage people with disabilities to complete forms and secure their vote because I believe that they are under-represented on the register.

"As Chief Electoral Officer I am committed to doing everything I reasonably can to removing any barrier, perceived or otherwise, to registration and full participation in our democratic process."

A number of other leading groups representing people who live with disabilities, including Disability Action and MENCAP were in support of today's initiative.

Registration forms are available at the website of the Northern Ireland electoral office at www.eoni.org.uk, or can be obtained by phoning: 0800 4320 712 or at any Electoral Office.

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