Greetings, I’m Martyn, I have type 2 episodic (EA2). I’d like to talk a bit about my political and community involvement experiences.
I have been involved in community work since I was 16 and, along with my wife and some friends, we ran a small Residents Association and charity from 2006-2013 which involved things like youth groups, lunch clubs, events, outings and more.
As part of being involved with community work, I got involved in local politics and joined the Lib Dems in 2006 and stood for election, unsuccessfully, over several years along with being involved in running the local party and campaigns. I left the Lib Dems in 2012 and in 2018 I joined the Green Party.
I was due to stand in the 2020 local elections, but Covid-19 hit and the elections were delayed until this year and I was elected as a councillor for Trinity Ward in Burnley.
Due to my ataxia I couldn’t go out leafletting or knocking on doors, so I had to rely on my wife and the amazing local Green Party members who spent countless hours delivering for me – both leaflets and door knocking are the most effective campaign methods, so people with disabilities, health or mobility issues often struggle to get elected, meaning that it is often the ablest that represent us.
The same problems hamper my duties as a councillor – it can be difficult getting out to check on issues or visit residents, especially if they’re in fairly inaccessible places or if I’m required to walk and, if I’m in a full-blown ataxia episode, I struggle to even lift my head in bed. There is also a severe lack of dropped curbs and accessible crossings across the town, so even in places where they have put in excellent crossing points I often follow the path to end up at a point with really high curbs that I can’t get up or down, so I have to backtrack and either find another route or use very busy main roads to get anywhere – in a small power chair doing 3.5mph – that can be scary.
The problems don’t stop there, as even though the Town Hall has disabled access, the council chamber isn’t designed for anyone with mobility issues or wheelchair users – almost all the desks are on stepped platforms and there isn’t enough room to get a wheelchair into any of the rows.
The council staff have been really helpful, but there’s a lot to be done and one of my aims as a councillor is to improve accessibility for everyone across the town.