A Scottish Green council candidate has highlighted the need for more consideration of the needs of disabled people in local politics.
Sarah Anderson, a candidate in Ward 9 Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Lochwinnoch and Howwood, who is herself disabled, spoke after attending three events in the past week, all aimed at increasing political participation among disabled people.
Sarah said: “I am lucky to be standing in one of the most beautiful areas in Scotland. However, there are many issues which disproportionately affect disabled members of our community. Campaigning in these elections has brought home the scale of the task.
“Issues ranged from bins being in the middle of the pavement which would have been impossible to pass had I been alone, bank ATMs being too high up for wheelchair users to access and no local taxi firms able to take a wheelchair.
“Although taxi firms are incredibly helpful and polite I had to call over 20 companies and still could not find one able to take my wheelchair. Given that councils are largely responsible for allocating taxi contracts this is an area we can definitely improve on.”
Only 30% of candidates in the upcoming local elections are women, while disabled candidates are estimated to number less than 10%, far below the 20% of citizens who have some form of disability.
Inclusion Scotland operate a programme called Access to Politics which has assisted Sarah to use enhanced computer equipment, personal assistants and wheelchair taxis to be able to actively campaign and encourage people to vote for her.
Sarah continues: “When I lost ability to walk and developed a hearing impairment late last year I had no way of knowing how much my disability would impact on daily decisions. I think putting disabled people at the heart of our community improves it for us all.
“There is no substitute for lived experience and as the only disabled candidate standing in my ward I feel that I am ideally placed to represent my neighbours. Councillors must deal with issues from schools to building access to lighting, all of which impact disabled people.
“When I attended an Enable Scotland hustings early this month it became clear that disabled people do not feel that they have a voice in their communities or within our political worlds. Only by listening to disabled people and acting with them in mind will we be able to change our communities for the better.”
Sarah spoke after attending two Inclusion Scotland events in Edinburgh, aimed at encouraging disabled women to get involved in politics and to encourage parties to engage with the concerns of disabled citizens at the local level.
She also attended the manifesto launch of the Glasgow Disability Alliance which put forward several proposals to help councillors to put disabled people at the heart of decisions making.
Sarah said: “Given that disabled people are affected by many issues within the scope of a council’s daily responsibilities- such as lighting, access, pavements and roads- it is high time we followed the advice of the Glasgow Disability Alliance and started to put disabled people at the heart of the local political agenda. As the only disabled candidate standing by electing myself you will enable this to start immediately and progressively.”