Political Parties need to do more to address the barriers that prevent disabled people from becoming fully active in politics, including standing for election, according to leading disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Scotland.
Working with disabled activists from all political parties and none, Inclusion Scotland is developing a new “Access to Politics Charter”, to address the barriers preventing disabled people from becoming fully involved in politics.
Building on its experience delivering the Scottish Government’s Access to Elected Office Fund during last year’s local council elections, Inclusion Scotland held an event in February where over fifty disabled activists began the process of creating a list of solutions to problems faced by disabled people getting into politics.
“Disabled people are often hugely discouraged from putting themselves forward for elected office due to perceptions that they will be unable to meet the expectations of the role,” said Phyl Meyer, Employability and Civic Participation Manager at Inclusion Scotland.
“These fears are often based on barriers to participation, rather than a person’s suitability for the position. The charter will aim to eliminate these obstacles.”
The charter will commit political parties to providing clear guidance on how they will support disabled people’s participation. This could include alternative means of participation such as remote voting, and exploring ways to ensure the election of a representative number of disabled candidates.
The findings from the event also informed Inclusion Scotland’s recent submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on Electoral Reform.
“A clear message we have heard from disabled people is that introducing an option for job-sharing would make elected office accessible to many more disabled people. We should also consider having more councillors per ward and shorter terms of office.” said Mr. Meyer.
“These measures could also benefit participation among other groups that have barriers to elected office such as carers and lone parents – who are mostly women.”
Party leaders and MSPs will be invited to sign the Charter at the Scottish Parliament in June, at an event sponsored by the Presiding Officer the Rt. Hon Ken Macintosh MSP.