Public Authorities: Encouraging the Participation of Disabled People in Public Life
Public authorities must consider how they can: (a) promote positive attitudes towards disabled people, and (b) encourage greater participation of disabled people in public life.
This may be demonstrated through a public authority’s Disability Action Plan (or DAP) a document which outlines the measures that the authority is implementing, or intending to implement, to promote positive attitudes and to encourage greater participation of disabled people in public life.
In line with good governance practices, the measures contained in a DAP should be regularly reviewed, evaluated and further developed to ensure they are effective in meeting their objectives.
What does public life mean?
The term ‘public life’ is not defined in disability equality legislation but a flavour of what it means includes being ‘open to the people as a whole; involved in the affairs of the community, especially in government or entertainment.’
Making public appointments is an important aspect of public life but by no means the only way in which public authorities may promote positive attitudes and encourage greater participation of disabled people in public life. Engagement with public life at a community and local level may be meaningful and effective in breaking down barriers faced by some disabled people. It may also provide effective mechanisms for some disabled people to gain confidence and experience and be better equipped to apply and be successful in gaining public appointments in the longer term.
All public authorities therefore have a role to identify and implement measures which are appropriate to them in the context of the functions that they perform, measures which will promote positive attitudes and encourage greater participation of disabled people. There are many examples of ‘public life’ positions and they include the following:
- focus or working groups set up by public bodies
- community associations or fora
- Policing and Community Safety Partnerships
- Citizens’ panel
- Local Strategic Partnerships
- school boards of governors and school councils
- youth councils
- public appointments made by Government departments
This guidance provides some practical examples that public authorities may consider taking to encourage participation of disabled people in public life positions. You may have further innovative ways to encourage participation of disabled people.
Remember to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the measures being implemented.