Swiss politics, deaf to disability? –

One in five people in Switzerland has a disability. However, the Federal Parliament only has three elected representatives in wheelchairs. In the cantons and municipalities, the number of disabled politicians is increasing, but there are still many obstacles. The magazine 15 Minutes was interested in this problem.

“This remains a drop in the ocean because we are focusing on people who are in wheelchairs,” comments Sébastien Kessler, the first elected official to the Vaudois Grand Council to use a wheelchair. “There are of course other people with disabilities in parliaments, whether municipal or cantonal, with disabilities who are not visible and who do not claim to be as such.”

Sébastien Kessler, first elected to the Vaudois Grand Council in a wheelchair. [RTS – Cédric Guigon]

The socialist continues: “Having or saying that one has a disability is stigmatizing because all of a sudden, others put on the disabled person everything they think they know about the disabled person. And it finds that these are rather negative and rather false values.”

Because before entering a parliament, you must be elected. And for that, we must campaign. However, it is an obstacle to overcome when you have a disability: “You have to be present in the street, you have to be visible, so you already have to move around, you have to be able to communicate, you have to be able to get information, to look for information and all this creates constraints for a large number of people with disabilities,” explains Sébastien Kessler.

>> Listen to the 15 Minutes report:

Swiss policy deaf to disability?? / 15 mins / 14 mins. / yesterday at 12:40

Mobility, a key issue

Every time he wants to take public transport, Malick Reinhard has to call the SBB line for assistance: “That means twenty minutes on the phone to travel twice in one day. It’s extremely restrictive”, underlines the journalist in quadriplegia situation.

Journalist Malick Reinhard, traveling to Bern. [RTS – Cédric Guigon]

And when booking a trip from Lausanne to Bern, he points out the shortcomings of the law for the equality of people with disabilities, the LHand. “The will of the people is still not respected 20 years after its entry into force […] we violate the human rights of 22% of the population“, Malick Reinhard is indignant.

Concretely, the umbrella of disability associations, Inclusion Handicap, denounced last December transport infrastructures which did not respect the LHand. Obstacles, absence of guide lines for the visually impaired, lack of assistance: 350 municipalities remained inaccessible at the start of the year for disabled people, showed an RTS map.

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>> Read also: The map of public transport stops still not suitable for wheelchairs

For a global disability policy

“Mobility is the only area where we have set a deadline. So after 20 years, we take stock because the deadline has expired. But we realize that the law is not applied in many other areas such as inclusion in school, inclusion in the field of employment, the question of housing, where there is no deadline that has been set”, deplores Caroline Hess-Klein, head of Disability Equality and Inclusion department.

And the very gradual arrival of politicians with disabilities does not yet allow for a paradigm shift. “It is not because we are in a wheelchair that we will be able to move things forward. We must obtain political majorities, but we are in the minority as a person with a disability at the moment” , she concludes.

Cédric Guigon, Tristan Miquel



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