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Report: Finnish political parties need to improve disability inclusion

All Finnish parliamentary parties are interested in promoting the participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in their activities, but in practice there are many shortcomings in terms of accessibility.

PWDs are one of the most discriminated groups in Finland, and they face a wide range of discriminatory practices in their daily lives. Demo Finland has published a report on the participation of PWDs in the activities of Finnish parliamentary parties. The report was compiled by a research group of the Kalevi Sorsa Foundation during 2021.

According to the report, political parties are no exception to the society at large, and PWDs also face barriers to participating in party activities. Party members without disabilities often do not take notice that some activities discriminate against PWDs. On the other hand, there is also very little information about PWDs as party members in Finnish parties. Demo Finland’s report surveys both the views of the parties and the experiences of party members with disabilities.

The report points out that the parties have serious shortcomings in terms of accessibility. For example, events are held in inaccessible spaces, accessibility is not always taken into account when organising excursions and visits, and websites are not accessible. Also, PWDs are often invisible in the parties’ visual communications.

However, the report also notes that the parties recognise these problems and consider the participation of PWDs important. The report includes recommendations for parties on how to remove obstacles to the participation of PWDs in their activities and thereby contribute to the realisation of the political rights of PWDs.

– In a democratic society, political parties are a key gatekeeper for political participation. Therefore, it is essential that the parties commit themselves to promoting equality in their activities, says Gary Klaukka, Demo Finland’s Acting Executive Director.

The new report serves as a baseline study on the participation of PWDs in Finnish parliamentary parties. In spring 2022, Demo Finland will start co-operation with parties to improve the inclusion of PWDs. Demo Finland has been working to strengthen the political participation of PWDs in Kenya and Zambia since 2021. In Kenya, for example, several parties have taken concrete steps to promote disability inclusion, for example by establishing disability leagues and reviewing their party documents and structures from inclusion perspective.

The report is in Finnish and can be downloaded here (opens in a new tab).

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