What inspired you to get involved in politics?
During my 22 year career at Trafford Council I worked as the Disability Equality Officer and later the Equality Diversity Officer. I have been deaf from the age of one, and my first language is British Sign Language. I have a strong interest in disability because of my personal experience and as a result I have pursued a career which enables me to make a difference for disabled people. My passion for disability and equality issues also led me into roles such as the Chair for the Trafford Council’s Disabled Workers Group, and to sit on the board of a local school for special educational needs children.
Whilst working at Trafford Council, I liaised regularly with the area’s local councillors. I saw that their role was a good opportunity to help people in their everyday lives, as well as to get across the importance of disability and equality issues to the wider population. I also believed that having a local councillor, who was disabled, would encourage other disabled people to engage more with local politics, and would help them to feel more confident that their views and opinions are being represented in policies and decisions affecting their local area.
What made you decide to stand for elected office and what barriers did you face?
I recognised that with my enthusiasm for helping people and my professional background that I would have a lot to offer in the role of local councillor. However I was concerned about the challenges and barriers I might face. I eventually stood for a local election in 2011 and although I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity, as I expected, I experienced many barriers, particularly the costs of communication. I require the support of a British Sign Language (BSL) translator as I am unable to use speech to communicate. Without a BSL translator it is difficult for me to have discussions which enable me to understand the views and concerns of local people, to canvass the local area and debate important issues.
Candidates, whether or not they have a disability, often have to make several attempts to be selected and elected. Are you planning to stand again?
I wanted to stand for election again and I was so pleased to hear that the Access to Elected Office Fund had been launched. From my own experience of standing for election, I knew that the support provided by the Fund was much needed for disabled candidates. The personal cost of standing for election for me was very high, as I needed to pay for BSL translators. Knowing that I now have access to this support at no personal cost to me is such a relief. Knowing that I can get the support I need, when I need it, is has filled me with confidence and rebuilt my enthusiasm.