Today I joined what felt like every MSP in Parliament for the launch of the One in Five campaign. Ambassadors Pam Duncan-Glancy and Jamie Szymkowiak have done an incredible job in just a couple of weeks to create this brilliant campaign which aims to encourage, empower and increase political participation amongst disabled people in Scotland.
The campaign asks supporters to sign up to a five point charter which includes a pledge to make meetings accessible to all and a promise to ask people what their individual needs are. It seems like such an obvious set of asks when you see it like that – don’t exclude people and be aware of disabilities. But for a lot of the organisations that have signed up or that are still thinking about it, the charter has been quite a wake up call.
For two of the organisations I’m involved in (both of which are signed up now), the conversation about whether we should sign was fraught with worry about not being able to meet these basic asks. Would we have to get a BSL interpreter for every meeting? Could we really afford to print everything in Braille? What if local groups hold meetings in a pub up the stairs?
But of course these questions miss the point – this campaign is about asking disabled people what they need and then making every effort to meet that need. It’s not about placing undue burdens on organisations. It’s about supporting people with disabilities to be seen as, and to act as, an equal member of society.
The heartening thing for me about both conversations, was that for once we were actually thinking and talking about these issues. So rarely did we even consider whether it was ok for a meeting to be held up the stairs in a pub that we left each meeting actually quite ashamed of how little we had already done with and for disabled people. In both cases, signing up is the first step on a long road of getting much much better at being accessible, encouraging and empowering to everyone.
For me this campaign is about equality, pure and simple. It’s about supporting everyone to reach their potential and to contribute to society as an active citizen. I take my hat off to Pam and Jamie for an excellent campaign which is already making a huge difference.