What inspired you to get involved in politics?
For me it started at University – my department was under threat of budget cuts and I took it upon myself to launch a campaign against University management to try and stop the injustice. I found that I was quite good at campaigning, coordinating people and getting messages across to large audiences who could do something about it. My own life taught me that it isn’t always easy to succeed in your ambitions but pure determination and family support are key to trying and hopefully reaching your goals. Not everyone has that kind of confidence or support network and I wanted to be someone who fights and champions issues for those whose nets have broken time and again.
As a disabled person did you experience particular barriers or challenges and if so, how did you overcome them?
The barriers I have faced have been physical, like access to buildings, street campaigning and events. I learned that to help overcome access barriers to buildings, I always get as much information as possible about the venue before attending so I know what situation to expect.
Being short naturally and in a low height wheelchair, networking has been a significant issue – it can be difficult to move around the room and get people’s attention. I’m looking at using an electric chair that has a seat raising function to give me a better chance of locating people and joining in better with group conversations.
Street campaigning has been one of my biggest barriers. It can be difficult to get to doors by myself, so I overcome this by finding someone who is willing to help me.
What top tips would you give to other disabled people thinking of standing in elections?
If you enter politics through an interest in disability policy, it is important also to emphasise your interest in a wide range of other issues, so that people do not see you only as the ‘disabled candidate. Be completely determined, focused and aware of the task ahead of you….. ignore those who doubt you, focus on your strengths and build support around you, as that will be crucial for when the pressure increases.
If you are attending or planning an event whether it’s in Westminster, the Council House, party conference or other such event – they all require proper research. This can be for disabled parking, accessible toilets, door widths, lift types etc…..I always get as much information as possible prior to attending as you cannot guarantee what situation you’ll encounter upon arrival. Plan ahead, whether it is access, accommodation, travel or activities – get every ounce of information there is, check on StreetView, door by door and know exactly what the barriers are and how to get round them.