‘I want to see disabled people in parliament to change society’s mentality’

Disability rights commissioner Oliver Scicluna says Malta needs more politicians with a disability

CRPD commissioner Oliver Scicluna
CRPD commissioner Oliver Scicluna

Malta needs more politicians with a disability to be best placed to understand the challenges faced by disabled people, said CRPD commissioner Oliver Scicluna.

“Our voice is best directly represented by persons with a disability themselves; we fight not only for our own impairments but for those of others,” said the Commissioner for the rights of persons with a disability. “I would like to see persons with a disability in parliament and leading party structures; then we will see a change in mentality in the sector and society at large.”

A few weeks ahead of the local council elections, the Commissioner met with a number of candidates with a disability who will be running for election in their local communities.

Marica Bayliss, Matthew Chetcuti, Matthew Giordimaina, Kevin Glynn and Clifford Portelli spoke about the obstacles they face when running their political campaigns, particularly the difficulties of doing house visits in Malta’s villages. From inaccessible premises and apartments to patronizing attitudes and prejudices and increased expenses, the candidates discussed the common challenges they face.

“Perhaps a fund could be set up to offset some of the extra expenses shouldered by candidates with a disability and enable them to compete on a more level playing field with their non-disabled counterparts,” Scicluna said.

Accessibility was a major issue, with most candidates pointing out that even local council premises are often not accessible.

The issue of a trusted friend who could help disabled people vote was also discussed. An increase in the number of disabled voters could well result in an increase in the number of persons with a disability in politics.

“Perhaps the use of technology might be instrumental in overcoming this particular issue…. There are at least 18,000 people registered with the CRPD. Yet this is not reflected in the country’s political representation, creating a gap in the representation of diversity at community level,” Scicluna said.

Most of the candidates pointed out that they live disability every day and that persons with a disability find it easier to talk to them about their difficulties than their non-disabled counterparts.

More in National