Disability and political representation : analysing the obstacles to elected office in the UK

Evans, Elizabeth and Reher, Stefanie (2020) Disability and political representation : analysing the obstacles to elected office in the UK. International Political Science Review. ISSN 1460-373X

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    Abstract

    Around one-sixth of the European population have a disability, yet there are few self-declared disabled politicians. Despite scholarly and political interest in the under-representation of various social groups, little attention has been paid to disabled people. This article identifies and analyses the barriers to elected office faced by disabled people by drawing upon interviews with 51 candidates and elected politicians in the United Kingdom. It reveals barriers which occur throughout the political recruitment process, from initial participation to selection and the election campaign. They broadly fall into: (a) a lack of accessibility, including the built environment and documents; (b) a lack of resources to make events and activities accessible; and (c) ableism, including openly expressed prejudices but also a lack of awareness and willingness to make processes inclusive. While people with different impairments encounter some distinct barriers, all of them have similar experiences of obstacles and exclusion which go beyond those faced by people from other under-represented groups seeking elected office.