Including disabled people in politics

Updated 18th February 2022

Disabled people are often told we are needed in politics and should be more active, but the people saying this never consider what kind of accommodations might be needed to make it possible for us to participate. Telling people to take part does nothing to actually help them take part.

The following is a list of suggestions from several disabled people on Mastodon, including Erik Matthies and Joe Cassels; all who have my thanks. It’s not in any order (numbering is simply to make it easier to reference a point) and not edited (I don’t have the energy to do that).

This list is not exhaustive, so if you have anything to add, please leave this in the comments (and I’ll update the post).

Note: I can imagine some people will read this and think, wow, that’s a lot of needs. Yes, it’s not so simple, is it? Remember, disabled people are not a homogeneous group and individuals can have complex needs.

  1. Time/days for meetings: no one day/time will work for everyone, so for regular meetings (ie. monthly), change the times/days so that more people might be able to take part at different times.
  2. Funds for taxis/transport.
  3. Physical access: ramps, doors without lips that get a wheelchair stuck, working lifts, parking spaces.
  4. Make sure agendas/papers/PowerPoints are circulated ahead of time, in accessible formats and with plenty of time for people to digest the information and prepare for any contribution they want to make (including by email/etc rather than the meeting proper).
  5. Support person to help with activities, including correspondence. Funds to have a support person!
  6. Microphones/venues with better sound insulation. Ie. meeting in pubs sounds friendly, but can actually be a cognitive overload or cause hearing difficulties.
  7. How are meetings/events structured? Can they be structured to be shorter or in a way that core business is dealt with first?
  8. Can colleagues/comrades change their behaviour to be more inclusive/aware of individual needs. Ie. not talking over each other (which can be cognitively hard for some), to be efficient in what they say, stick to point. Better management of meetings events so that certain people aren’t always dominating.
  9. More time for rest during meetings and events.
  10. Make information as bite-sized as possible (especially when a vote on it is demanded).
  11. Spaces for people to rest in a low sensory environment.
  12. Accessible toilets.
  13. Subtitles during online meetings & sign interpreter during all meetings.
  14. Bringing in experience experts regularly so people who do not deal with disability (or other issues) can be informed first hand on what needs to be met, and what issues are current within the community
  15. At events like demo’s, prioritize space for people who are less mobile.
  16. Accessible language in texts.
  17. Accessible web and news letter design.
  18. Good moderation in shared online spaces/WhatsApp (or similar) groups.
  19. When planning a campaign or protest, incorporate actions for people who are unable to physically take part.
  20. Don’t pressure disabled people to disclose medical/private information about their disability. Any disclosures that are made, should be treated with absolute confidentially.
  21. Don’t expect a single disabled person to ‘speak on behalf of’ all disabled people.
  22. If you are asking for a disabled persons time to help manage theses issues, pay them.
  23. A lot of disabled people have limited energy, so respect their time. For some, just the cognitive/emotional energy expended explaining needs, can be exhausting and negatively impact our health.
  24. Stream all events/meetings online so that they are accessible to people who cannot physically attend.
  25. Record events/meetings so that people who were unable to attend can still engage.

In practice, disability needs will sometimes contradict each other, but that’s just a fact of life, it’s up to the organisation/campaign group to manage this properly. Just like you manage differences abled people have.

If your response to this is “it’s too hard”, welcome to our every day lived experience.

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