By Sarah Anderson, Green Party Activist, One in Five Ambassador
I’m writing this on a day where my health has taken a downwards dip and where I know I’m not going to be able to leave the house. I’m writing this on a week where my local council Renfrewshire have passed the goals of the oneinfive campaign. I’m writing this on a day where I’ve had to make apologies for not being able to attend a meeting I was due to attend due to being housebound for the day. I’m also writing this in a period of time (extended time) where my health has been the best it has been for a long time (many years) and where instead of being bedbound and housebound the majority of time the very odd instance when my body needs a rest is now in the extreme minority. This is my body telling me that it is not going to be able to perform and my mind, although very much active, having to listen because I know through experience that if I don’t listen that I’ll suffer even more the following days. Those with chronic health conditions will most likely understand that battle between body and mind where your mind is willing and your body isn’t able.
I was talking to a friend recently about the fact I was thinking of standing for Council elections in 2017 as the more involved with politics and the local community I become the more passionate I am about helping to make a difference at grassroots level. For most of us local politics are where the changes and decisions are made which really matter. It is also the arena where elected representatives can really find out about what their area wants and ensure they are able to make positive difference in the community. Of course its true that decisions made at Holyrood and Westminster matter but for local lives I really believe that Councils have the power and can truly make changes for the better.
During this conversation I was asked about whether I felt my disabilities would stop me from representing the community in the way the area deserves. I told them that of course I’d not even consider standing if I didn’t think I could fulfil the role. My disabilities have never stopped me from doing anything I put my mind to but surely that’s the crux of the oneinfive campaign not to mention what disabled campaigners have been striving towards. Looking at my positives I’m a young, passionate, committed individual who genuinely loves my city and country and I already volunteer to try to make people’s lives better while being at heart part of my community. Add in the fact I’m disabled does this really change who I am as a person? I’d argue that it makes me more empathic towards others and should be taken as a positive. I’d also argue that, along with the social model, if changes are made to buildings and structures and the way we work that my disability wouldn’t be a factor at all.
We live in an age of technology and where we can connect with people from the other side of the global instantly. We also live in an age where roads and infrastructure simply are not meeting the demands of the people never mind exhaust fumes they emit. We live in a time where disabled members of our society have proven time and time again that they’re more than able to fulfil full roles in employment and community yet too often than not they’re faced with obstacles they need to overcome to meet these if they can even find employment in the first place. Given that the first, of hopefully all, local Councils have signed up to the oneinfive pledge surely it stands to reason that disabled people can and must be involved with politics on all levels to ensure positive changes happen in reality.
Simple changes to the way politics works can have huge impacts on allowing participation. Is there any real reason why meetings must take place in the same room when video conferencing exists? Is there any reason why an elected person who through disability, or care, requirements can’t have representatives? These two changes, not to mention changes to how we communicate and the way information is presented, can have huge impacts on allowing passionate people to be involved. I am not suggesting that people should not make every effort possible to attend meetings, be involved with the local community and ensure their views and that of the area are heard but I am saying that if the only reasons people are not putting themselves forward to stand or people are suggesting they not be able to fulfil their role then surely it is the way in which politics operates which needs to change to ensure people like myself are empowered to stand.
I am hugely proud to live in the area where the first Council to sign up to the oneinfive pledge operates. I am hugely proud to be part of a campaign which is seen as encouraging positive change to the lives of disabled people in politics. If I was to be elected to Council I would also be hugely proud to represent my community. I am sure that people in my area see the people over the disabilities I only hope that basic changes will start being made to ensure that people like myself are able to stand.