Essential those with disabilities have permanent seat at decision-making table, says Skinner, following passing of motion

Alliance Knockagh Councillor Aaron Skinner has said he is delighted after parties came together last night (4 September) to support his motion calling for the establishment of a Disability Lived Experience Group as a stand-alone subcommittee at Mid and East Antrim Council.

Mid and East Antrim Aaron Skinner

The primary objective of this working group is to provide a platform for individuals with the lived experience of disabilities to consult with elected representatives on adaptations and initiatives to enhance accessibility and inclusivity throughout the community.


Specific aims of the group would include assessing existing infrastructure and facilities throughout the borough, identifying areas of possible improvement, providing feedback on proposed policies, projects and initiatives, and collaborating with elected representatives so that the voices of those with disabilities are fully heard and considered in the decision-making process.


Councillor Skinner has said: “It is our duty as councillors to listen to our constituents on the issues that matter to them, so we can best represent them when it comes time to make decisions for our community.


“All too often however, the voices of those with disabilities are sidelined. This motion is about guaranteeing their crucially important seat at the table, and ensuring their voices are heard.


A few months ago I organised a meeting for parents of children with Special Educational Needs to feed into some Department for Communities planning. Speaking to the parents afterwards they told me how much they appreciated it, as they spend their whole lives shouting to be heard and for once someone sat down with them and wanted to listen.


“After that I started working on this motion, consulting with some fantastic organisations within Mid and East Antrim, such as Mencap, the Mae Murray Foundation, and Access Employment Ltd (AEL) to help draft it, who’s contributions have all been invaluable.


“For me, this is about going beyond doing things for people with disabilities and instead empowering those who actually live with disability every day to advocate for what is needed. To do this, it is essential that their perspectives, insights, and experiences lie at the heart of our decision-making process.”


“I hope there’ll come a day in the near future when we see greater representation of people with disabilities elected to public office, but in the meantime it’s essential that we do all we can to enshrine the inalienable ability for disabled people to advocate for themselves into our democratic structures.”