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TX: 22.01.03 – DO WE NEED A DISABLED PEOPLE’S PARLIAMENT?

PRESENTER: PETER WHITE


WHITE
Now special days, weeks, years focussing on various aspects of disability have often been a damp squib, generating more coffee mornings and jollies at conferences than real advances. But is the European Year of Disabled People about to be the exception that proves the rule? It's launch in London today has already been accompanied by an announcement that the government intends to introduce a draft disability bill later this year, which will extend the definition of disability and which also has provisions about transport and admissions to some of our larger private clubs. There's money as well, with this year over £2 million jointly from the EU and the Department of Work and Pensions to help fund over a 170 projects. Amongst them the idea of a disabled people's parliament, attended and elected by disabled people.

Joining me is Andy Rickell, who's chief executive of the British Council of Disabled People who proposed this idea. Andy, first of all, reactions to the extension of the Disability Discrimination Act this morning - is that good news?

RICKELL
Sort of good news. I think we're pleased that the government is now at last prepared to implement some further recommendations from the Disability Rights Task Force recommendations but the disabled people's movement will probably be using the Disability Bill as a basis for campaigning for comprehensive civil rights legislation because we think the Disability Discrimination Act is seriously flawed.

WHITE
But that raises the whole issue - why a parliament - after all the parliament which made this decision that's where decisions are really made, what's your parliament going to do?

RICKELL
One of the main purposes of our parliament is to make certain that decisions like this are made that are better for disabled people, to have a strong voice for disabled people at national level to feed into national processes like this.

WHITE
But in the age of inclusion this is the very reverse isn't it?

RICKELL
No, it's about making certain that there are a sufficient number of people working together to get a strong voice, you then change society and then all disabled people are able to take advantage of the changes that are made.

WHITE
But how do you stop it just being a talking shop, I mean we've had youth parliaments, we've had the Muslim parliament, isn't there a danger that it is just somewhere where people sound off?

RICKELL
The parliament essentially is just part of the process of campaigning, a part of the process of enabling disabled people to get their voice heard at all levels - not just national level but local level as well - and encouraging disabled people to see that there is a way in which they can get a voice and get things changed.

WHITE
Isn't it going to be quite difficult - I mean you say it should only be voted in by disabled people, how are you going to define that, how's it going to be policed?

RICKELL
That's a very good question. There are about 8.6 million disabled people, we'd anticipate that disabled people will choose to identify themselves as such and we'll make sure that those disabled people understand what the purpose of the parliament's about.

WHITE
And where will it be - London?

RICKELL
London is probably the one place it won't be, partly because everything else seems to be London centric and partly actually because London isn't very accessible.

WHITE
So where?

RICKELL
Probably somewhere in the Midlands, the first meeting in October this year will probably be in Manchester.

WHITE
That will be good news for the other half of You and Yours this morning and AndyRickell thank you very much indeed.





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