ParliAble, the Workplace Equality Network in support of disabled Members of Parliament, Peers, and staff in Parliament was formally launched on 14 September in Speaker’s House by its two Champions, Speaker Rt Hon. John Bercow MP and Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE.
ParliAble is open to both those who consider themselves to have a disability and those who have an interest in supporting disabled people. It aims to increase awareness and appreciation of disability issues, and to provide a platform where disabled people can find support, and where disability equality objectives can be progressed. The initiative for the creation of Workplace Equality Networks comes from the House of Commons Service’s single equality scheme.
Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, former Paralympic athlete said “I am proud to be a champion for ParliAble, Parliament’s disability workplace network. This is another step forward in the House Equality Scheme and I am excited that this network will work towards making Parliament more accessible for all.”
Speaker John Bercow said that he was “absolutely delighted to support this new initiative,” and went on to explain the initiative’s manifold purpose “to give a safe working environment to everyone, to offer a sign-post service to provide advice, to support awareness raising campaigns and to improve accessibility.”
ParliAble is led by a cross-house and cross-party steering committee. Its members are: Paul Maynard MP, Dame Anne Begg MP, Stephen Lloyd MP, Baroness Wilkins, Baroness Thomas of Winchester, Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, John Borley, Director of General Facilities, House of Commons. The election for an Executive Committee will take place in Spring 2012. An interim Executive Committee is currently in place.
ParliAble is the second Workplace Equality Network (WEN) to be launched in the Houses of Parliament. WENs are being set up to advise Parliament and help remove barriers at work. They provide an opportunity for different groups of people to discuss and consider issues relevant to their situation or of interest to them. WENs are useful forums for groups protected by equality legislation.
The House of Commons Service Single Equality Scheme was launched in January 2010 by Mr Speaker and Susan Scott-Parker OBE, founder of the Employers’ Forum on Disability (EFD). The first WEN, ParliOut which supports LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) staff in Parliament was launched in December 2010. The next WEN to support gender equality is currently in the planning process.