[AI] Is it time for persons with disability to enter politics?

Subramani L lsubramani at deccanherald.co.in
Wed Jun 30 10:53:57 EDT 2010

This is in reference to the story below. This raises  the curious but
difficult question: should persons with disability enter politics in
order to influence policy (both the ones that affect them and those that
doesn't). I am doing an analytical article on this question and would
welcome responses from those in this list and from those with other
disabilities outside this list. Kindly pass this around and encourage
folks to respond. I have a few questions which I am putting below the
story and so pl read the mail fully. 
    Britain's first MP with Cerebral Palsy encourages persons with
disability to enter politics   
June 28: The first elected representative to the British Parliament with
Cerebral Palsy, possibly the first in the world with that disability,
has urged more persons with disability to enter politics. 
Paul Maynard, elected to the House of Commons last month as a
Conservative Party candidate, has said that his presence in the House
should provide encouragement for other persons with disability to
contest elections and enter Parliament. 
"I just hope that simply my being here, in the House of Commons, people
who may be nervous about getting into politics are not put off by any
fear of what might happen during the (election) campaign," Maynard, MP
from Blackpool North and Cleveleys, told Britain's The Independent
newspaper in an interview published on Monday. 
He  also said that he had faced ignorance about his condition from a
young age, but had been determined to rise above the taunts. "There will
always be people who will use it (the disability) against you and you
will have to learn to deal with that," Maynard, 34, told the newspaper. 
Maynard studied in a special school until he was five years old. He was
then transferred to mainstream school and went on to obtain a
first-class degree from Oxford. He mentioned in his interview that his
life was transformed by the early experience he had in the special
"Because my problem was with the thighs, and their muscle development,
they would strap you into tight iron callipers for several hours a day.
You had nothing to do. So I was doing all my numbering and all my
reading    far earlier than most children and very quickly learnt to
read and write, which was an unexpected bonus later on," he said. 
Maynard, who worked as a management consultant before   getting a job at
the central office of the Conservative Party, had decided to enter
politics just weeks before the elections this year. 
He faced derogatory comments in his constituency after a television
interview, in which his slurred speech (due to his disability) was
mistaken for drunkenness. He explained about his disability and insisted
that it didn't affect his intellectual abilities. 
He eventually achieved a 7 per cent swing and won by a majority of 2150
votes in his constituency, which was one of the seats the Conservatives
rested back from Labour. 
He had already delivered his maiden speech in the Parliament and has
made interventions at the Prime Minister's Question Time, considered an
important business t the British Parliament. 
Britain had David Blunket as the first person with disability as a
cabinet minister under Labour, when Tony Blair appointed the visually
challenged MP from Sheffield as Home Secretary. 
*** *** *** 
(PL mention your full name, designation/office, age , name of the
organisation you represent and the city you hail from) 
1. Do you think having a politician with disability would make a
difference in terms of passing legislations and implementing them?
2. This is more a personal question -Given a chance, would you enter
politics? Pl substantiate your answer as to why you would and why you
wouldn't make that choice? 
3. What do you think r the advantages and disadvantages of being a
politician with disability? Are these (advantages and disadvantages) the
reason that influence your choice to enter or not to enter politics? 
4. Are 'politicians with disability' the need of the hour? Do you have
personal choices amongst the present crop of activists who would make
good politicians (ignore it if you are not comfortable answering this
part of the question). 
5. What are the challenges do you think for activists to become
6. Do you think politicians with disability, such as Paul Maynard spread
awareness and positive impressions about persons with disability? 
7. Do you think it would be difficult in circumstances in India for a
person with disability to become a politician? If you say yes, why?
8.  What are the risks of being a politician? Are you worried about
compromises you may have to make by being a politician? Or do you think
being an educated person is actually an obstacle to be a good and honest
political leader? 

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