The CDG's 'Accessible Politics' project aims to see more disabled people involved in the Conservative Party, selected to stand for public office, and elected as local Councillors, MPs and to the devolved Parliaments as Members of the Senedd and MSPs. The CDG will be building on our recent successes as a group and continue to work in partnership with the Conservative Party, Conservative Campaign Head Quarters (CCHQ), our members and our network of Parliamentary supporters to achieve progress on this issue.
The project builds on our strong track record of positive engagement and constructive dialogue to achieve real change for disabled people.
For example following the 2017 General Election the CDG made a distinctive representation to the Eric Pickles' General Election Review 2017 and as a consequence of our representation we secured a number of recommendations in relation to disability. In particular we welcomed the recommendations listed below and are working with the Conservative Party to see these - and other proposals - implemented and enhanced:
Recommendation 10 - The Manifesto should be produced in accessible formats, as soon after the main launch as possible.
Recommendation 51 - The Party should strengthen the bursary scheme available to candidates to encourage more...disabled candidates to stand for Parliament.
Recommendation 81 - The Party should consider refreshing the website... The website should be fully accessible.
During the 2019 General Election the Conservative Party produced accessible versions of the Manifesto in BSL, braille, audio and easy-read. Further information available here.
We are also working with the party on a number of initiatives to improve the overall accessibility of the Party Conference to make it more inclusive for disabled people, both in the main conference hall and for those accessing it remotely. It was through our work with Helen Grant MP that we succeeded in having British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation in the main hall of the Conference.
As a group we are currently consulting with our members across the country and our network of Parliamentary supporters to put forward a programme of activity and areas that we want to prioritise. Our Deputy Chairman - Barry Ginley - is leading this area of work for the CDG.
We are also holding a virtual panel discussion on 'How do we make our politics - and the Conservative Party - more accessible for disabled people?' This event is being held in partnership with the Conservative Policy Forum and will listen to the experiences of disabled activists in the party. The discussion will focus on areas that have worked well, as well as identifying opportunities for improvement. Our commitment as a group is to support changes to make a positive difference for disabled people.
This is the first of many events that we will be holding to provide opportunities for disabled activists in the party to share best practice, provide mentoring support from the CDG and ensure our group acts as a network also. The project will also be an opportunity for the CDG to provide resources for local Conservative Associations to support them in their candidate selections and offer advice and guidance on reasonable adjustments to involve more disabled people in the Conservative Party.
The government previously introduced the EnAble Fund to support the costs incurred by disabled candidates to fund reasonable adjustments and we are supporting its reintroduction for future elections.
Across the country and in Parliament disabled people elected as Conservatives are already making a significant contribution to public life and the Conservative Party - we want to build on this achievement in the months and years ahead. The CDG's Accessible Politics project is how we will continue to make a difference.
Barry Ginley - Deputy Chairman, The CDG