How do I make my manifesto accessible to everyone?

Start by making it a priority. This means that you will consciously think about accessibility in all you do. You might not get it perfect, but you’ll do a much better job than candidates who aren’t even considering it.

There is some information on making your campaign accessible in the official candidates’ guide (pages 20-21), together with links to more information. Local charity Access For All* has some great guidance on making accessible websites, printed material and videos.

If you are using social media, there may be ways to make your account more accessible for disabled voters – for example, by writing captions for pictures you post, so visually-impaired people can enjoy them too.

You might be able to find information about improving accessibility under your Account Settings or somewhere obvious, or you might have to google your social media platform + “accessibility” to find it! (The irony of making accessibility information obscure is not lost on me…)

The benefit of searching the internet for social media accessibility tips, instead of being able to find it easily on the platform itself, is that you will probably also come across information from disabled social media users* explaining what works well for them. Read this and learn from it, as much as you can.

What I did on my manifesto and my website – which mostly boils down to clean presentation, large font size, and writing in plain English to the best of my ability – was really all I did in terms of accessibility. There is a lot more that you can do if you want to. I didn’t use videos as part of my campaign, but if you are doing video or audio clips online, do try and make sure there’s a transcript or subtitles available for people who need them.

One thing I wanted to do, but lacked the confidence to, was to write a one-page easy read version of my manifesto, which could have been tucked inside the main document, for the benefit of people with learning disabilities, people with dementia, and anyone else who found the longer manifesto difficult to make sense of. It’ll be different this time – you probably won’t be producing a separate manifesto anyway – but I’ve mentioned it because I regretted not doing it, and you might want to do better.

Finally, apart from Lilita Kruze, who stood in the last Election, there have been very few candidates who’ve been able to communicate with voters here whose first language is something other than English. But if you’ve got a couple of key messages, what about making them available in different languages on your website? It might not be easy to get a reliable translation at short notice (please don’t use an online translation tool!), so this might not be feasible, but it’s another angle to think about if you are considering how best to make your campaign accessible to everyone.


* I mentioned that you might be able to get advice on accessibility from voluntary groups, and from people who share their expertise on social media. Although this is freely available, if you find it useful (and if you can afford to do so), you might want to consider making a donation (in the case of individuals, take a look at whether they have a patreon account or similar) by way of thanks. These are uncertain economic times for everyone, and little courtesies can make a difference.

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What are the risks?

I have written a fair amount about risks in the sections on family and health. The trouble with risks is that you often don’t know you’re taking one until something goes wrong – so I can’t give you a comprehensive list of all the risks associated with political life (because I don’t know what they are) but I will try and talk about it in general terms.

This is an area where it would be particularly helpful to speak with as many Deputies as possible, and perhaps also with other people working in the public sector, who will be able to tell you what they themselves have struggled with, or what keeps them up at night. This might help you to build up a more comprehensive picture than I can give you by myself.

Generally speaking, I think most risks fall into one of two categories. First, there are risks that arise simply because you are a public figure – the whole gamut of insults, slurs and misinformation about you on social media, threatening emails or phonecalls, attacks on your reputation, threats to your safety.

I haven’t yet felt unsafe myself, but some of us have, and with reason – especially people who are more publicly visible, because they’re Presidents, or associated with an unpopular policy.

And then there are risks that relate to the general and specific responsibilities you’ve taken on in the States. This includes things like data protection, challenges under the Code of Conduct, and any legal responsibilities you have as a result of your Committee duties.

You will be introduced to these responsibilities as part of your induction as a Deputy – but it will probably feel like a lot of information all at once, so don’t be afraid to go back and ask for a recap once you’re ready to take it in. In Committee, you will benefit from the knowledge, resources and support of the civil service; but the rest of the time, you are on your own – and that can be pretty frightening.

Of course it’s right that we are held to high standards – we have an almost unique power to make decisions that can affect people’s liberty, their livelihoods, sometimes even life itself. But we don’t have any of the infrastructure, from personal assistants to party advisers, which politicians elsewhere benefit from, so it can be very lonely and very vulnerable.

Your best support will probably be trusted colleagues – current Deputies, or those who have recently retired, who may have been through something similar, or who can help you to get the advice or assistance you need. If you have people you can confide in, don’t be afraid to ask them for help.

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