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Can we Re-design the Language of Elections?

Terms such as "accessibility" are increasing dropped in favour of "inclusive" and "universal", with a corresponding effect on how we view the ethos of "accessibility". What effect can this have on the experience of elections and politics?

Photo of Eoghan O Shea
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Moving from an examination of how accessible the election experience can be to how inclusive it can be, begins to raise the question of how to create a potential role for all people in all aspects of the political process. Institutional, or top-down approaches, intended to include as many as possible in elections have been tried, such as mandatory voting in about 10 states worldwide, whereas Switzerland has a form of direct democracy with 4 national votes taking place annually on issues of governance and to elect officials. Neither of these approaches can be said to have cured, or even addressed, the problem of people's apathy toward both elections and politics in general.

A key aspect of inclusive design, and Universal Design, is an approach to design that takes cognisance of the needs of a wide body of people, and that addresses social participation: the overarching aim is to make everyone capable of participating to the degree that they want in society, and of making the overall society to be participated in inviting.

To increase political participation, people need to be invited and excited into voting, which can of course be facilitated by the sensitive design of the built environment and processes of voting, by using mail voting, web-based voting and other multi-locational techniques - but people will only really join in at a meaningful level if they feel themselves to be part of the whole process of democracy.

Can we agitate the process so democracy flows from the bottom-up, from the individuals and groups who have, or recognise, specific needs at a local level, or who just have great ideas? Great ideas, whether they be novels, art, technology, or community schemes, begin at the local, at the small scale, at the specific need or observation, and flow into something more universal. These innovations also need to be assessed by everyday people to test whether they have traction. Including all is the only way of being accessible to all.

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Photo of Paul Reader

Interesting ideas Eoghan.
Will be interested to discuss any concepts built upon this.

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