Every policy is a disability policy and we need the parties to acknowledge this4 min read
Well, that’s a wrap on the 2020 General Election.
It’s been a funny old election, one that I don’t think anyone is going to be forgetting in a hurry. Not only did it take place in the middle of a global pandemic, but also, we all got free voting pens!
I read probably every policy released by the main parties so many times that I could recite them in my sleep. I also found that Twitter was a surprisingly good platform to connect and engage with the candidates. There were a few policies that I needed clarification on, so I took a chance and tweeted the politicians. I was really surprised by how quickly they replied and were overall, very helpful. I like that Twitter provides an almost immediate connection to our politicians, and also, it’s been a great way to engage with other people in the disability community.
But all that aside, apart from the people we were voting to represent us, we vote on policies. Policies are important. They set out the path Aotearoa will be taking for the next three years. I must say, as a policy analyst, the most frustrating aspect of this election was very much with the lack of policies across the board; policies from some parties were particularly sparse and late to the game. Disability is often overlooked, and I wish we had had more to really sink our teeth into.
Labour didn’t release their campaign manifesto until four days before the election, which was after 1.3 million people had already placed an advanced vote. To their credit, they did have a disability policy, which does show some promise. I’m very interested in what the Accessibility for New Zealander’s Act will look like.
The Greens are the only party currently in parliament that went into this election with a dedicated disability policy, I’m really pleased the Greens have this policy, but I’m also disappointed that it took so long for other parties to either acknowledge or release disability policies. We deserve better than to just occasionally be mentioned in housing policies; we deserve well thought out and considered policies that don’t just tack us on the end for the diversity tick. Granted the circumstances of this election is different from others, but looking back, disability as an afterthought is too often the case. We need more representation, not only by dedicated policies but by more disabled people in politics. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful of disabled politicians over the years, and that’s frankly not good enough.
If we are ever going to see real, meaningful change for disabled people in Aotearoa, then the disabled voice must be heard loud and clear at the very top of the establishment. At the disability sector forum (which was a great event, I highly recommend going to watch the video or reading my summary of it if you don’t have a spare two and a bit hours), the candidates from the main parties were all in agreement on one thing; there need to be more disabled people in politics. How we achieve that? That depends on who you ask.
I personally believe that disabled people not only need to be encouraged to get involved in politics but also for supports to be put in place to ensure this can happen. At a minimum, disabled people need to be consulted on all policies. One of my favourite parts of the disability sector forum was the overarching theme of ‘every policy is a disability policy’; and it’s true, disability affects every aspect of our lives, so all policies need to be informed by disabled people. We can’t just be rolled out every so often to meet diversity requirements.
In the next few weeks, we’ll find out who the Ministers will be, as well as the disability spokespeople from the other parties. It will take a while for the dust to settle, but I’m hopeful that we can really gain some traction for the disability community. It’s not an easy job by any means, but it’s important, and we can’t afford to be an afterthought, or a diversity tick.
So if this election went the way you wanted or not, I really encourage you to use your voice, to raise issues that are important to you, democracy isn’t just once every three years but happens every day. And if you find you can’t get the ear of the people you want to talk to, tweet them, who knows, they might reply.