Institutional ableism, critical actors and the substantive representation of disabled people: Evidence from the UK Parliament 1940-2012

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Chaney, Paul (2015)

This study is concerned with the substantive representation of disabled people (SRDP) in legislative settings; in other words, addressing disabled people's needs and concerns in policy and lawmaking. Mixed methods analysis of post-1940 Acts of the UK Parliament, backbench MPs' use of early day motions (EDMs) and written parliamentary questions (WPQs) reveals long-standing institutional ableism. This is the situation whereby systemic practices disadvantage individuals based on their abilities. Inter alia, the findings show that although recent years have seen some progress, there remain significant party differences in the prioritisation of the SRDP – with gains largely dependent on the parties of the left, as evidenced in the data on lawmaking, and use of EDMs and WPQs. Importantly, the findings also support recent theorising on ‘claims-making’ by revealing the pivotal role played by ‘critical actors'. These are parliamentarians (disabled and, crucially, non-disabled) who, compared with their peers, are disproportionately influential in promoting the SRDP.
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