Politically disabled: barriers and facilitating factors affecting people with disabilities in political life within the European Union

Mitzi Waltz, Alice Schippers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Diversity is a current buzzword in politics, but in the EU, people with disabilities are not achieving the gains made by women and ethnic minorities. This research examined barriers and facilitating factors through a literature review and interviews with politicians and political activists in five European countries. Six categories of barriers and facilitating factors were found: networks, recruitment and mentoring, resources (money, time and energy), the “hierarchy of impairments,” accessibility of political spaces and activities, and laws and policies. Key recommendations include removing access barriers to political participation, from voting to holding office, including physical and procedural barriers in political spaces; ensuring that equalities legislation covers politicians; eliminating barriers imposed by benefits systems; promoting direct support for political activists, candidates and office-holders with disabilities, including access to necessary services and supports; encouraging parties to recruit and mentor disabled people with leadership potential; and considering quotas and job-sharing. Points of interest Not many disabled people are active in politics. In the EU, about 15% of people have an impairment, but only around 1% of politicians do. Inclusion at school and in social groups makes it easier to get into political jobs or to try to get elected. Some disabled political activists, volunteers, candidates and office-holders don’t get the support they need. Political parties can help by finding disabled people, supporting them, and helping them get involved in politics. Our article provides several ideas about how to make it easier for disabled people to run for office and work in politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-540
Number of pages24
JournalDisability and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Politics
  • activism
  • inclusion
  • politicians with disabilities

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