NCIL: One in Ten Elected Officials Have a Disability

For Immediate Release: One in Ten Elected Officials Has a Disability
October 3, 2019
Contact: Sarah Blahovec, 571-777-8531, [email protected]
New Report Finds Gap in Political Representation of People with Disabilities
Washington, D.C. – According to a new study by Professors Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse, co-directors of the Program for Disability Research in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, an estimated 10.3 percent of elected officials serving in federal, state, and local government have disabilities. That is more than five percentage points lower than the overall disability rate in the adult population studied in this data.
This report marks the first quantitative study of representation of people with disabilities in elected office. Schur and Kruse analyzed 2013-17 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which measures disability on four kinds of impairment (hearing, visual, mobility, cognitive) and difficulty with basic activities inside or outside the home. The researchers’ key findings include:
  • 15.7 percent of adults and 10.3 percent of elected officials have a disability. That is a gap of 5.4 percentage points, suggesting that people with disabilities are underrepresented in elected positions.
  • 12 percent of elected officials in local government have a disability, compared to 6.9 percent at the state level and 6.3 percent at the federal level.
  • The rate of disability is slightly lower among women elected officials at 8.3 percent, than among men elected officials at 11.4 percent.
  • The vast majority of elected officials with disabilities are white, non-Hispanic men.
The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) has created Elevate: Campaign Training for People with Disabilities to begin to close the gap in political representation of people with disabilities. It is the first and only nonpartisan campaign training program created to help prospective candidates with disabilities learn essential skills for running a political campaign. In addition, NCIL maintains two databases, Candidates with Disabilities and Elected Officials with Disabilities, which list prospective and current elected officials with disabilities at the local, state, and federal levels.
“Achieving equal representation in all levels of government is critical to ensuring that people with disabilities have our voices heard,” said Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of NCIL. “For the first time, we have a way to quantify the gap in political representation for people with disabilities. NCIL will continue to work on creating programs and information to help people with disabilities close the gap in political representation.”
Founded in 1982, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) represents thousands, including individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States. NCIL is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. NCIL advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities, and envisions a world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully. Learn more at
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