Some key themes to come out of the previous election which must be rectified before the next elections which are also highlighted by the recent Inclusion Scotland Party Interns are that disabled members are still being marginalised and are under represented in many ways.
These findings gave way to priorities which range from members being overworked with limited support and include the fact that worryingly some meetings are still taking place in inaccessible buildings. It appears to be a common misconception that if there is a lift to a building that this building is completely accessible. As we know this is not the case. Can members get to the building in the first place? Is there blue badge parking? If they can get to a meeting are meeting papers provided in such a way that a member can access them? Are they in a correct print for the individual? Are they recorded? If it is a longer meeting are there enough breaks provided and quiet areas and are these quiet areas not in a first aid room which can put off members from using a facility if it has even been provided? Is enough support provided to people who are taking on roles?
I’m sure we all know the self guilt which comes from not being able to do a job but whether real or perceived this is something which must be stopped. In smaller parties it can absolutely fall to the same people to do many tasks however this is not good for the individuals being relied on or for the party as a whole given that member could need to take a break at any moment and leave the party in limbo.
It also is clear that with the best intentions that support for party officers and officials must be enhanced, or put in place if it is not already there. With organisations such as one in five and Inclusion Scotland there really is no reason for people not to be able to receive guidance or information however many are still unsure of who to ask. The information must be clear, relevant and concise to allow people to access and there must be a key person or people in Parties which can be asked for that information.
The Greens have a disabled group yet even then are finding that too often they are not being asked for their views nor for help on issues which directly impacts themselves as a whole or as individuals. With this in mind we urge all Parties to consider appointing a Disability Officer and for that person to sit on the Party NEC. This would have several benefits. Firstly others in the Party would know a named individual who they can access for help and assistance to ensure members are included in all activities. Secondly the real experts who are the disabled members themselves would know who to contact to ensure their views and concerns are not only heard but acted on. If that individual sits on the NEC then they would have real accountability for ensuring aims are turned into action.
During the election campaign it became clear that disabled members were not being as included as they could have been. Quite often for disabled people it is difficult to door knock or canvass however it is true that admin style tasks are taking up a lot of time. Is there a reason why members who are not able to do one type of task are not being asked to take on another? After all the more visible members are to the voters the more likely voters are to vote for Parties which represent them so its really a win win situation. This is highlighted by the fact that none of the Leader’s Debates used BSL, were quite often failing in sound quality and many other barriers were present to disabled people being included.
Moving into the next elections it is clear that Parties must ensure disabled members are not only included but are motivated to take on manageable tasks, that their voices are not only listened to but acted on and that representation is true and extends to all groups.