Guest post by Jared O’Mara, an events manager and candidate for Sheffield Council. Jared has cerebral palsy hemiparesis and is standing in the 2016 local council elections. Here he shares his experience of being a disabled person standing for election, including his own personal views on encouraging more disabled candidates in politics.
Being disabled and standing for election has not been easy. I was born with cerebral palsy hemiparesis, which in my case means that the entire right side of my body is significantly weaker than my left. I have reduced mobility, poor balance, and regular bouts of tiredness and fatigue. I can also only type with my left index finger.
Even before becoming a candidate, I’ve had to struggle up and down difficult stairs just to get to candidacy interviews. When out in residential areas, I’m constantly on edge, wary that a dog may jump up at me and knock me over. All the extra campaign on work on top of working full is time is more tiring for me than it would be for a non-disabled person.
But I relish it.
I’m not scared of hard work. I really want to get elected so that I can serve the community of good people from my local area where I grew up.
I believe that disabled candidates can be at an advantage to non-disabled candidates. Having a disability can make us more passionate, resilient, empathetic and hard working than non-disabled candidates by virtue of everything being harder for us in life. My hope is that one day political parties and voters will realise just how amazing we disabled people are and how we’re perfectly placed to represent them in councils and parliaments.
Locally, my fellow candidates have been amazingly supportive in terms of working around my sleep patterns and driving me around when they can to save me getting taxis.
There is no financial support to help disabled people to stand and no parties have helping disabled people into public life as a priority. There used to be the Access to Elected Office fund but that has been cut.
This made me very angry and, from a personal point of view, it has cost me a large three figure sum in disability related costs that could have helped me take part in the election.
We sadly live in times where non-disabled people hold most of the power and they can be ignorant to the contribution and unique perspective that disabled people can make and offer.
I feel that every disabled candidate, whatever the party, could be better supported by the powers that be and more should be done to get disabled people with a wide range of different disabilities into public life
A return of the Access to Elected Office Fund, full legal aid provision for disability discrimination cases and All Disabled Person Shortlists would all go a long way to helping disabled people stand in elections.
With approaching local council and London Mayoral elections, as well as the EU referendum, we want disabled people to have a clear understanding of their voting rights and options. Read our blog about voting and elections for more information.
Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing another experience from a disabled councillor.
Header image: Courtesy of Sheffield City Council