Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Access to public office for people with disabilities

The beleaguered Government Equalities Office (GEO) is trying to set up some e-learning to encourage people with disabilities to stand for elected office.  It's a very tight time-scale with a launch expected in June.  Political parties have been invited to send representatives to the planning meetings.  I was the only rep from a political party at this third meeting.  The other attendees were from 3 NGOs (non-governmental organisations), the electoral commission, House of Commons, and BYG (the training providers).   Ulrike Zeshan (Professor of linguistics)  had represented the Green Party at the last meeting and had emailed her recommendations to the group.  The NGOs seemed to be in full agreement with them.   I emphasised that expenses at least should be paid for consultation, especially as people with disabilities are not usually the richest people in the world.     The Green Party has sent reps to all 3 meetings  so we are doing our bit, but, at the same time,  we are very aware that  any amount of  'encouragement'  for people with disabilities is a drop in the ocean in the context of the government's attack on disabled people as a group  and on disabled people's standards of living.  This is likely to keep people permanently excluded - making the GEO efforts laughable. 

Most of us said that the draft e-training was too general and not focused on the specifics for those with disabilities.  I reiterated Prof Zeshan's rec. of a special meeting for sensory organisations with BYG.   BYG would like case studies (real experience of challenges and how to overcome them). Anyone  with disabilities who may consider standing as a candidate needs to know there will be funding to assist individuals.   I commiserated with the GEO staff on having to do such a complex task  in such a rush. 

There was an ugly  English Defence League (and anti-EDL)  demo outside the Home Office as I arrived.