I am now a 60 year old man who is virtually housebound. I take very short rides on my scooter about every two weeks, very local, and if and when a taxi.
I joined the Labour Party, late 2015/2016. When I first joined there was no alternative method to vote for a new Chair unless I physically went to the vote. I could not and therefore could not vote.
The Chair said there was going to be a LGBT and Disabled Group set up. Neither evolved in my time there.
I succeeded in getting the executive which was then the three wards to agree that disabled people could vote via Skype if they could not attend meetings to vote. I also managed to get Skyped into my ward meetings.
This period was very dark, my only contact so far was via the odd Skype meetings and Facebook. The admins on Facebook were unused to moderating and I have screen grabs of intimidation, bullying, trolling etc because 1. I was a Corbyn supporter, whilst about half were Kendal supporters and 2. My efforts to raise disability issues were met with deafening silence. It felt very intimidating.
My chair went to work for Jeremy. I sent the next new Chair screen grabs of the treatment meted out to me since I had joined and he had assured me if he was elected he would address some of my concerns. I voted for him at a meeting via Skype.
At around that time a very poor moderator indeed decided to expel me from Facebook because I had wanted redress to accusations of an elected councillor. I later went to the equalities unit in the council and won my case against her online behaviour and received a private apology.
The Chair and I then had a very toxic exchange of emails cc’d to Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Debbie Abrahams. Even though he knew of my past experiences he refused to do anything retrospect making my membership of The Labour Party pointless if I couldn’t access the meetings. He refused to admit even after his claim to have “I have checked on the database and there’s never been an incident of you being banned.” I was banned on 22 December 2016.
I had spent considerable effort the previous year campaigning for the council not to meet at Brighton Old Town Hall as it was deemed inaccessible my the then three MPs. The Chair went back on this and said they should meet there. One of his reasons was that it was podcast, but during the first meeting it didn’t work properly and the first motion of abolishing the ILF went through to a pixilated podcast, hopeless. During our exchange he said he was getting rid of Skype and introducing an audio only for meetings as this was free. I explained that I had been Skyped from nearly every public building in Brighton and Skype was free and should he offer audio only maybe at the next meeting he provide the whole attendees with blindfolds so they may experience same.
The solicitors at the council advised that elected representatives should not block people for the sake of transparency and fairness, I was blocked by both the leader (who is stepping down) and another person. The Chair said said it was only a recommendation not a law. I suggested a post on the executive of a disabled person, he rejected this saying there were already three elected people in the group.
I asked him directly if he supported disability issues, I never got a clear response. I suggested he go to the local disability charity and get disability awareness training as he was in obvious need of it. I wrote him saying his habit of writing without paragraphs and making spelling mistakes was making it really difficult for me to digest and respond. He then sent an email with over 3,000 words without any of my suggestions. It was this point I gave up. Now my Chair is an MP it makes it very difficult for me to address and I have sent the leaflet to Debbie Abrahams, but as yet no reply as I got the standard ‘I only represent people in my own constituency’.
Our LGC meetings are currently in an inaccessible place- not much in it, there is a ramp at the front of the building but there is a step from the pavement onto the site.
I did eventually get the point across but it took a while- now waiting for them to get a portable ramp so I can see if the rest of the building is accessible.
I refused the assistance offer as the building should be accessible without assistance.
Over the past few years I have learned to be pretty bolshy about access and independence but it is essential that those of us who do have the self confidence to make a fuss on our own behalf, also take a pan-disability view and ensure that the venues are properly accessible for everyone. That may involve becoming the disability officer and pushing your branch or CLP to send you on an access auditing course.
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I do not see detail so recognising who is there when I walk into a meeting or turn up at a meeting point is very difficult.
I have spoken about this and asked people to approach me and tell me their names. Very few do. More often than not I am left standing alone listening to the conversations around me and trying to work things out.
I have been separated from my canvassing group and got lost because they forgot to keep an eye on me.
Accessing print info in meetings is also a barrier…
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I had an argument with a branch chair who said a venue was accessible. What he meant was a ramp into the rear room we were using directly from the outside. The fact a wheelchair user couldn’t get to the bar was “ok because someone will go for her”. The fact a wheelchair couldn’t leave the room to go to the toilet didn’t come into anyone’s consideration and they didn’t understand why that was an issue.
Actually can you emphasise in general how toilets can be make or break?
Also people need to stop looking in terms of wheelchair users all the time. I’ve been in venues that are great if you’re in a wheelchair but on crutches are a nightmare.
The one time I went to Labour Party Conference, I was made to sit in my wheelchair in the aisle. I had people calling me a fire hazard. I had people climbing on me to get into empty seats.
I had told CAC that I needed room for my assistance dog, none was provided. I watched the press climbing over a guide dog and occasionally stepping on him. Luckily I had thought better of taking Rex. I don’t know what I would have done with him.
At Regional Conference, the workshops were held upstairs the lift was tiny and I worried about going up, so didn’t get to any workshops or fringe meetings.
http://disabilityequalityactlabour.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/small-rose.png00cookiewphttp://disabilityequalityactlabour.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/small-rose.pngcookiewp2018-03-06 13:06:472018-03-06 13:06:47Conference, wheelchairs and Rex
Attending a regional conference, using my wheelchair, there was no access to the room where voting for the regional board was taking place. I was required to fill in my ballot paper in a public corridor, and then the ballot box was brought out to me. There was no privacy or ability to perform a “secret” ballot for wheelchair users.
No local Taxi firms ran Wheelchair accessible vehicles on the weekend of the conference and knew nothing of it happening. Dial-a-Ride, as per most areas, does not run on weekends. The only way from the train station to the venue was the bus, access on to the bus was difficult with maybe a millimetre to spare either side of the wheelchair through a very tight turn onto the bus. Obviously, no comprehensive accessibility audit had taken place.
There were places with no dropped kerbs on the route from the bus stop to the venue entrance. No route to the entrance (let alone one suitable for a wheelchair) was sign-posted, the only available route required negotiating speed humps with no way to avoid them.
At the same conference, the lunch buffet was laid out in a long-legged L’shape meaning a very awkward manoeuvre required to negotiate said buffet when getting around the internal 90° turn as the able-bodied members happily crowded past blocking me from doing so.
During all our campaigns I feel incredibly useless. When I was first elected I did hours of phone banks. Since my anxiety issues I get petrified.
I have asked repeatedly to stuff envelopes at home as our CLP office is rather inaccessible. I get no response from the office although they know in the past I have stuffed more than 3000 envelopes in two days.
I always feel not good enough.
When I was selected to stand this last time I was grilled about how many hours I could dedicate to campaigning. How do I know how I will feel until it’s time to leave? Then the group go to the pub. I don’t do alcohol, so rarely go.