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Disabled and politics

Do disabled people have a place in politics? I don’t mean if they should be represented in the walls of parliament because the answer to that is an obvious yes; but I meant if people really believe they have a right to be there. I’m very thankful that we finally made some leeway with the appointment of Senator Ifill, but are we content with just her alone and believe that she has met the “disabled quota?”

Not in the least. We need to understand that all persons should be represented within the walls of government and have a say in the running of a country. It’s a given that when we see our politicians speaking out on our behalf, we want to know that they can identify with us as it relates to our needs and hope that when they speak they become our voice. After all, that’s the purpose of a democratic voting process . . . to elect someone who will be able to identify and truly represent who we are.

In the UK, disabled people who want to become MPs are to be given funding to help them into Parliament and ministers say the fund is part of a 1m package aimed at helping disabled people who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials. According to PoliticsHome, the plans include the creation of a mentoring programme that will allow aspiring disabled politicians to learn from people who have already made it to the top.

What I like about this program is that it speaks volumes on many levels. Firstly, the government is putting their money where their mouth is. In order for anything substantial at this level to work, there is always a cost involved and in my opinion that is when I know you’re serious; because if you aren’t willing to put up a cent then you’re wasting time!

Secondly, allowing persons to be mentored shows understanding of a process which doesn’t train and educate alone but gives way to people coming alongside and working practically with those who wish to enter the political arena. Here is where I see hope for a bright future, because in this particular aspect we see the opportunity for non-disabled persons to be actively involved in the fight for equality.

The UK is demonstrating that this process of allowing more disabled people the chance to get into politics is one which can be achieved through uncomplicated means. With proper planning, key individuals involved in the programme and a clear and concise vision, there is no reason why said Minister of Equalities, Theresa May, that someone who has the right to take an active role in our democracy is prevented from doing so simply because they are disabled.

Richard Hawkes, the Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, made the point that “Disabled people want to enrich our political debate but continue to be under-represented in public life due to a range of barriers they face, including negative attitudes . . .”. This statement which speaks of people’s negative attitudes is probably the one barrier which people allow to hinder them in their quest for equality on any level.

I personally think that we spend too much time being discouraged by the responses of those who choose ignorance over common sense and equality. At the end of the day when barriers come down and change comes about they have to fall in line just like the rest of the country. So how do we then start to get something like that off the ground? We need to start educating and understanding that everyone has something of value to contribute. Putting our money into educating those who qualify to enter this arena is also a necessity as it costs money to get anything like up and running. Too often we are limited by the barriers of our mind when all it takes is a renewed focus and an openness to accept and embrace progression as opposed to settling for the dull, mundane and familiarity which we so often dwell on in life.

We all have a voice. We all want to be heard. If that is truly the case why would we want to hinder someone from adding diversity, flair and creativity simply because of a disability? The argument that they are disabled has no merit and I fail to see how we can reject such a forward thinking idea with such a narrow minded view.

The more I think about it, the more I discover that the beauty comes not with voting for a qualified disabled person, but voting for a qualified person who just happens to be disabled.

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