The Home Office published a set of guidelines called “Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Strategy” last month (April 2012). This talks about what political parties need to do in order to comply with the Equality Act 2010. There is a recognition that in a truly democratic society it is important to have a diverse range of people representing society in parliament. In 2011, following consultation, the government committed to the following:
1. To work closely with political parties, the Local Government Association (LGA) and disability organisations to raise awareness of the importance of diverse representation including from disabled people.
2. Provide training and development opportunities aimed at supporting disabled people through the route to political participation
3. Establish an Access to Elected Office Fund to support disability related costs
4. Work with political parties to analyse their existing disability access policies and promote good practice
5. Promote and explain legal obligations that apply to political parties e.g. produce a short guide to support political parties in fulfilling their duties in compliance with the Equality Act 2010.
These guidelines have been produced in response to the fifth of these commitments.
Whilst the guidelines are aimed at political parties, I feel all disabled people should know what is in place to help them become elected and participate fully in the democratic process should they choose to do so. Especially poignant on the day we learn the sad news that Jack Ashley has died – a politician that did much to demonstrate the contribution of disabled politicians.
If, as a disabled person, you are interested in getting involved with politics, you may find this document useful. It describes the obligations under the Equality Act 2010, giving relevant examples of different types of potential discrimination, and advises political parties on what to do to include disabled people in the process.
It would be good to see more disabled people in politics, following the footsteps of people like Jack Ashley. What do you think?
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