Today, 25% of American adults have some type of disability, and the disabled community continues to grow. Research has shown that the number of eligible voters with disabilities increased by more than 10% between 2008 and 2016.
Over the past decades, the United States has passed numerous bills promoting equitable voter access and signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Despite this, the number of politicians with disabilities is staggeringly low at 10% of U.S. elected officials sampled.
Women with disabilities are even more invisible. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that disability is more prevalent among women than men, women with disabilities experience about double the rate of electoral under-representation than their male counterparts. Why?
RepresentWomen’s latest report answers this question and identifies many structural barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in American politics.
A 2017 report from the Government Accountability Office found that 60% of the 178 polling stations assessed had one or more barriers for voters with disabilities.
The high unemployment rate within the disabled community (82.1% in 2020) and low socio-economic status is a significant barrier for applicants with disabilities.
Women with disabilities face additional and unique barriers related to their ‘intersectional disempowerment’, a term coined by Dr Kimeberle Crenshaw, which means that women with disabilities face discrimination based on their disability and gender barriers. such as skills biases, distorted media coverage and male occupation. advantage. Many also experience more layers of difficulty related to their intersectional identities, such as race barriers.
So, how can we improve the elected representation of people with disabilities and more particularly of women with disabilities? Our report believes that political parties are essential custodians of elective mandates, but their insufficient engagement with voters and candidates with disabilities has contributed to the under-representation of the disability community.
Voters, candidates and public servants with disabilities deserve an equal right to political representation – let’s go beyond the promise of fairness and focus on its implementation.
Alisha Saxena, a former research intern for RepresentWomen, is a Masters candidate in public policy at Georgetown University. Laura DeMarco, a former administration and development intern for RepresentWomen, is a communications student at the University of Maryland. The Fulcrum is a non-profit, non-partisan information platform covering efforts to fix our systems of governance. Â© 2021 The Point of Support. Visit thefulcrum.us. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.