Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities call for more inclusive and fully accessible Legislatures
06 September, 2017
The unique challenges faced every day by disabled Parliamentarians from across the Commonwealth have been highlighted at a gathering of Members of Parliament in Nova Scotia, Canada.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in partnership with the Nova Scotia House of Assembly has held the first conference of this kind, bringing together over 30 Commonwealth Parliamentarians with disabilities, carers and parliamentary officials from eight of the nine regions of the CPA from 31 August to 1 September 2017.
The conference enabled Members of Parliament to network and share experiences, good practice and innovations from Commonwealth jurisdictions that are designed to support their full participation in political and public life. Ensuring a disability perspective in all aspects of policy and legislation formulation, effective implementation and enforcement of existing accessibility and disability laws and policies, as well as providing for equal employment opportunities and training, are among the measures that contribute to the greater inclusion of people with disabilities.
Members pledged to continue to advocate for more people with disabilities to stand for public office and improved access in legislatures across the Commonwealth. Recognizing their individual responsibilities as role models, Members discussed how they could use their positions to promote and work towards more representative and inclusive legislatures across the Commonwealth. The important role of political parties in candidate selection was recognized as critical to increasing the numbers of people with disabilities in Parliaments.
At the opening of the conference, Hon. Kevin S. Murphy MLA, Speaker of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly said: “It is a privilege to welcome my fellow Parliamentarians with disabilities to Halifax, Nova Scotia for this unique Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities Conference. Nova Scotia became the 3rd province in Canada to pass accessibility legislation that ensures fair and equal access for all citizens. It is my hope that we will collaborate to develop and make recommendations to the CPA to create a formal network of Parliamentarians with disabilities within the Association.”
The CPA Representative, Hon. Jackson Lafferty, MLA, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories and CPA Executive Committee Representative for the Canada Region, said: “The World Health Organisation reports that around 15% of the world’s population, or an estimated 1 billion people live with some form of disability or different ability. Persons with disabilities have a great deal to contribute to our society and democracies and must be given equal opportunities and the right support. The CPA recognises the importance of creating inclusive Parliaments and has supported the inclusion of special interest groups recognizing their importance in strengthening parliamentary democracy across the Commonwealth. To be reflective of the societies we serve it is important that persons with disabilities are given opportunities to be represented in Parliament. However, despite constituting 15% of the world’s population, Parliamentarians with disabilities are in the minority or non-existent in most Commonwealth Legislatures, and significantly underrepresented in governance and other levels of decision-making.”
Parliamentary Committees are regarded as extensions of the House, limited by the extent of the authority given to them, but governed in their proceedings by the same rules as those which prevail in the Assembly.