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Civic Engagement and People with Disabilities: A Way Forward Through Cross-Movement Building

by Monika Mitra; Sandy Ho; Susan Eaton

May 27, 2020

This report presents a national overview of the barriers to civic engagement that disabled people experience. Drawing on our findings from surveys, a Twitter chat, and interviews, we offer recommendations for the philanthropic sector and for civic engagement organizations aspiring to create a more inclusive and responsive democracy to build civic power among people with disabilities. Civic power in this report is conceptualized as opportunities for people with disabilities to amplify, mobilize, and elevate their voices and infuence within democracy.

This report centers the expertise, insights and lived experiences of people with disabilities, including leaders from various disability communities. Our findings reaffirm that no disability rights issue exists outside the sphere of civic engagement and no meaningful civic engagement strategy can emerge without attention to disability rights. 

Supported by the Ford Foundation's Civic Engagement and Government (CEG) program, this report is a collaboration between the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy and the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy, both based at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy. The disability rights mantra "nothing about us, without us" informs the questions, methods and content in this report. We hope the findings and recommendations will inspire new thinking and action within philanthropy and civic engagement spaces, and spark courageous conversations and inform practices within the vital organizations working to strengthen democracy in the United States.