THE BLOG

More Disabled MPs Is Good News But All Politicians Have A Duty To Represent The Voices Of Disabled People

09/06/2017 15:05

We have the politicians we voted for.

2017-06-09-1497015103-7446923-SophieMorgan.Polling.jpg

There is good news. We have two new openly disabled MPs. Jared O'Mara and Marsha de Cordova join Robert Halfon and Paul Maynard. But let's not get carried away.

There are 13 million disabled people in the UK, and that means we should be aiming for 20% of the MPs sitting in the Commons identifying as disabled. However, it is a start and a small step in the right direction - our Parliament will be stronger for the diversity of voices elected today.

The impact of seeing disabled people in important positions in society cannot be underestimated - on public attitudes, and on the aspirations of young disabled people. This is a positive in combating the under-representation of disabled people in public life.

Attitudes towards disability and disabled people impact every area of our lives. We shouldn't underestimate what it takes for a disabled person to win election to political office. In everyday life, we are routinely thought of as being not up for the job.

The majority of disabled people (62%) feel they are treated differently because of their impairment, according to the charity Scope. Over a third of the public (34%) say they avoid disabled people over fears of being patronising or saying the wrong thing.

Imagine going to a job interview and not being taken seriously because your speech or hearing is impaired and you aren't given a fair crack of the whip. Standing for election is perhaps the most public and unforgiving job interview there is.

2017-06-09-1497016176-8760585-SophieMorganbyThames.jpg

Attitudes

We also need to remember that attitudes towards disability impact all areas of life and politicians have a duty to represent the voices of disabled people.

Only about half of disabled people who want to work are in employment. Disabled people are pushing hard to get jobs and progress in their careers but the labour market is stacked against them. The support for disabled people both in and out of work place needs to radically improve.

We need reforms which not only lead to a change in employer attitudes but also offer disabled people better access to in work support.

Looking ahead, I'd love all disabled MPs and their colleagues to hold the Government to account; scrutinise their commitments to disabled people set out in the manifestos and make sure they truly understand the impact of policies on disabled people.

The next Government must reform the flawed PIP assessment and Work Capability Assessment. They must urgently seek to improve a social care system that doesn't currently support many disabled people to live independently.

Action

Above all we need action on disability, led by and with disabled people, to be a priority across all parts of Government. We need everyday equality. There are 13 million disabled people, and we need to stop being regarded as a niche issue. I believe more disabled MPs we have the more chance we have of that happening.

If you are wondering what you can do today other than catch up on the news. In Kilburn, London a voter found her life made even more difficult after being turned away twice from as the polling station wheelchair access was closed. That's not good enough, and should not happen in 21st Century Britain. If you're disabled and want to share your experiences (good or bad) of voting yesterday, I'd encourage you to take part in the Electoral Commission's research in to accessibility of voting. https://www.research.net/r/Q3QCS98

Sophie Morgan is Patron of disability charity Scope.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS