By Simon Sansome
General elections are about getting the message out there, knocking on doors and interacting with the community. As someone who has run a number of elections and stood twice for parliament I’d like to think I have the experience to run a general election campaign and from my point of view it is completely discriminatory against people with disabilities.
There are a number of major issues; you have to knock on doors to talk to people, well if you cannot access the front door you cannot talk to people so you always need someone with you to go knocking on the door for you then ask the voter to put their shoes on and stand in the cold, in the street pulling them out of their homes.
Another issue is delivering leaflets, when I was a local counsellor I could deliver 5000 leaflets a day, however after my injury in 2014 I was relying on the community and again the volunteers of the party to deliver my leaflets which was more difficult and more problematic as people work and in the dark no one wants to deliver leaflets. So the only way to get your message out there is to pay people to deliver leaflets for you.
Another issue with transport, some of the constituencies are massive and getting round can come extremely difficult unless you have an adapted vehicle or driver you have to get a taxi if you’re unable to drive this costs money because the complicated process of claiming this back through expenses is just ridiculous.
There is something called Enable Funds for Elected Office, which allows a person with a disability to apply for certain funds to assist them in their needs when standing for election. However, this doesn’t cover things like assisting with knocking on doors, accessing the general community and delivering leaflets which is the main part of a general election campaign. What it does cover is
• transport support for mobility impaired candidates
• specialist equipment such as screen reader software
• British Sign Language interpretation for hearing impaired candidates during election campaigns
• the transcription of campaign material into braille for visually impaired candidates.
The whole system is designed so people with disabilities cannot stand for election or need a great deal of assistance to stand for election and this is why there is not one wheelchair user in the House of Commons. However, there is the mobile bench in the House of Lords a group of disabled Lords and Ladies who have been appointed to the Lords.
It’s time that the government notices that people with disabilities want to represent their community, want to get involved in politics and have their say. The whole idea of Parliament is to have someone who represents the community there are 14 million people in the UK with disabilities and very few MP’s with disabilities.
The government and the Electoral Commission need to recognise that funds need to be put in place that actually make a difference to people wanting to stand for democratic process and that it is the peoples democracy. The disabled community is being neglected and in my view this is against their basic human rights and the only way I can see a way forward is if a person with a disability is given a safe seat, otherwise the disabled community will continue to be ignored and not represented in parliament.