It will come as no surprise that I believe that ensuring equal access to Parliament for all people, including access to the political debate, is an essential part of a healthy democracy.
However the reality is that we do not have equal access and there are structural barriers that prevent access for many.
For example, many Deaf and hearing impaired people cannot follow question time and parliamentary debates because parliament TV is not captioned.
There are also specific barriers that prevent people with disabilities from standing for election and/or from carrying out their responsibilities when elected.
This is an issue close to my heart I believe that we need more direct representation of disabled people in Parliament to ensure a genuinely representative democracy.
That is why I am delighted that the Government Administration select committee is currently holding an inquiry into the accessibility of services to Parliament and I am hoping that many people and organisations will make a submission.
The issues included in the inquiry include how to ensure better access to
- parliament buildings (e.g. access to buildings, signage in Braille, provisions for guide dogs)
- parliament’s public processes, such as Question Time, select committees, etc.
- public information, including parliament’s website and Parliament TV (e.g. NZSL video clips, plain language, captioning of parliament TV )
The inquiry is also looking at ways of providing support for people with disabilities to stand for election and effectively hold office in Parliament.
This includes support for MPs to carry out their functions without discrimination, providing full and equal participation and equality of opportunity, as well as enabling the participation of people with disabilities in political parties.