Sunday, 8 December 2013

Civic Participation - Aspire and World Human Rights Day

1)      Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

2)      Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
We are a democratic country and all have the right to participate and even be elected representatives. However, disabled people are significantly underrepresented in government and in Parliament. If Parliament was truly representative of society, there would be 65 disabled MPs in Parliament!   
Furthermore, people have found that even visiting Parliament can be a strenuous task for wheelchair users. Wheelchair users visiting Parliament have to be escorted around the building whereas non-wheelchair users practically can roam around freely in most of the public areas once they get through the security barriers. This is more different access than equal access.
The ability to vote and participate in elections is a key democratic right. In the 2010 Polls Apart report, research found that at 67% of polling stations surveyed, disabled people faced accessibility barriers. That’s an improvement of only 1% on the last general election, and just 2% on the election before. Progress is not moving fast enough.
Councils regularly review polling stations and as part of this, they should also ensure that there are as few barriers as possible at polling stations for disabled people. Staff training was also cited as an area that needs improvement. In one case study in the report, a voter felt totally ignored as the member of staff chose to communicate with their personal assistant rather than the individual voter.
The solutions for realising this Human Right are in better training for staff, wider voting options and greater accessibility of polling booths. Certainly the rate of improvement needs to change for the better. A 2% decrease in accessibility barriers faced since two general elections ago is nowhere near good enough.

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