RepresentWomen Releases Research on Disabled Women’s Political Representation

By Kaycie Goral on August 11, 2021


August 11, 2021 

Contact: Kaycie Goral

RepresentWomen's latest report answers the following question: “Why are Disabled women underrepresented in US politics?” 

Takoma Park, MD - (August 9, 2021) - RepresentWomen's Intersectional Disempowerment report identifies the structural barriers that prevent Disabled people from participating in US politics and discusses how we can improve elected representation for the Disabled community and specifically, Disabled women.


Today, 25% of American adults experience some type of disability, and the Disabled community continues to grow each year. Research has shown the number of eligible Disabled voters increased by more than 10% between 2008 and 2016. Over the past few decades, the U.S. has passed many bills supporting equitable voter access and signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Despite this, the number of disabled politicians is an abysmal 10% of sampled U.S. elected officials.  Twenty-six states were found to have no disabled representatives at the local, state or federal level. Of the 24 states with disabled representation, 9 had no disabled women representatives.


RepresentWomen's report builds on an argument that Disabled women pursuing office experience intersectional disempowerment, which is defined as intertwined, undue burdens of oppression. Specifically, disabled female candidates have to overcome structural barriers related to gender, socioeconomic status, political institutions, accessibility, and even race that create a uniquely challenging experience to pursue elected candidacy. Broadly, this argument disagrees with the notion that underrepresentation is only caused by women running for office at lower rates than men. Accordingly, we argue that there is a need for pairing candidate-focused, pipeline strategies with structural, systems-based solutions that reduce these barriers to the participation of women with disabilities in politics.


The purpose of this report is to give our audience an overview of disabled political representation in the United States, the barriers that disabled voters and candidates face, and what steps need to be taken to rectify the gender disparity which exists in disabled political representation. 


Specifically, the report covers key terms, domestic trends, examples of disabled women currently serving in government, international case studies, relevant legislation, the Biden administration, and action items that can be taken to reduce intersectional disempowerment and promote disabled representation in campaigning and government. 

 Further readings are also provided in hopes that this discussion will be expanded on in the future. 


Additionally, RepresentWomen is taking measures to ensure their research is accessible as well. This includes integrating tools such as UserWay into their website and creating translated microsites for key research. 


UserWay: A built-in accessibility widget

  • Enhances text size,
  • Creates contrast,
  • Highlights hyperlinks,
  • Increases text spacing and line-height,
  • Pauses animation,
  • And includes dyslexia-friendly tools. 


The team at RepresentWomen is also working with Wolfestone to translate our women's representation, ranked-choice voting, Gender Parity Index, and international research into Spanish, French, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Arabic - as these are the top languages spoken in the United States whose speakers are the least likely to speak English.


Translated Microsites:


According to Cynthia Richie Terrell, RepresentWomen CEO and Founder: "Our main goal at RepresentWomen is to research and break down barriers that stop women from participating in politics. Naturally, this includes the barriers of disability and language barriers. This is why Representwomen is making the change for accessibility within our organization; We hope to lead by example through the education and implementation of systems changes." 


RepresentWomen is actively trying to learn more and improve the accessibility of their work and are open to suggestions and comments to improve accessibility. Please email our team at [email protected] if you have any feedback or suggestions for us as we work together to build a more accessible website.