Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Boris snubs mayoral disability hustings

I attended a disability hustings today with our mayoral candidate Jenny Jones at Coin Street Community Centre in Waterloo, Lambeth.

It was organised by Transport for All and Inclusion London, two organisations that do excellent work on behalf of deaf and disabled people in London.

All the main mayoral candidates were there - with the exception of Boris Johnson, who sent instead London Assembly member Richard Tracey.

From the questions and comments from the floor, it was pretty clear that those present were unimpressed with Johnson and his messenger. Tracey tried to fob people off with the promise that Johnson would attend other events organised by charities working with disabled people. This however was also greeted with jeers. Tracey I don't think understood why. And this is part of the big underlying problem.

What Johnson, and indeed some of the other mayoral candidates didn't seem to grasp, was that these hustings were important because they were run by organisations led by disabled people. As was abundantly clear from the questions and points made from the floor, it is the voices of disabled people that actually have many of the answers to the access and inclusion problems that disabled Londoners face.

But for the last twelve years, policy in these areas has been "done" to disabled people, rather than being led by disabled people. And as a result, promises have been broken, or slipped down the agenda. For example, Ken Livingstone promised 90 out of 270 stations would be step-free by 2013. Boris Johnson made the promise of 68 step-free stations by the end of 2010. Neither promise has been fulfilled.

It must be deaf and disabled people who are setting the agenda in the future. I am pleased to say that the Green Party has embraced the proposals in the manifestos put forward by these organisations - Inclusion London and Transport for All - and a whole lot more. It is simply unacceptable that in this day and age we exclude so many Londoners from day to day life in the capital, from the lack of access at tube stations, to the poverty of accessible housing, through to the way the buses are run and operated.

More Greens on the London Assembly in the next four years will mean that more voices of disabled Londoners are heard.

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