Working with Disabled Women

Experiences of disabled women

There has been little attention paid to the intersection of gender and disability or to addressing the specific concerns of disabled women.  Where the needs of disabled women* have been highlighted, it is usually in the context of health issues. This reinforces a medicalised approach, seeing disabled women as primarily having health needs rather than an emphasis on their right to participate in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural life of our communities., 

Disabled women experience the same inequalities as non-disabled women. However, their situations can be exacerbated by social and cultural attitudes to disability as well as environmental barriers. We know that women with disabilities have a lower uptake of health screening, are more likely to experience sexual violence, experience barriers to parenting and that older disabled women are disproportionately affected by the extra costs that people with disabilities face.

NWC’s work in this area

The National Women’s Council  is committed to working towards greater equality for all disabled women, increased participation and representation of disabled women at all levels of Irish society, and to the full realisation of the rights of disabled women, as set out in the Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This work is underpinned by an understanding of the Social Model of Disability.This model focuses on the inadequacies of social, environmental, political and economic factors in society that restrict the full participation of people who have impairments thereby failing to fully accommodate their needs.

We have supported disabled women to come together online over the last few months. The group is a space for disabled women to come together to share information and ideas, to help shape the women’s equality movement in Ireland and to support disabled women's leadership.

The purpose of the group is;

  • to work with NWC to ensure disabled women are more effectively represented across all our work
  • to strengthen our advocacy and campaigning work
  • to champion spaces where women with disabilities take the lead.

The role of NWC within the group is a facilitative role not a leading role; it is about supporting and creating spaces for the direct voices, activism and participation of women with disabilities building our understanding on the intersection of gender and disability.

If you are interested in joining or want to find out more, please get in touch with Catherine on catherinel@nwci.ie. Let us know what supports you need to participate.

* Language, and the way we use it, often plays an important role in creating and maintaining discrimination or reinforcing inequality. It can also represent a statement of identity, dignity and rights. The movement of people with disabilities doesn’t use the term ‘disability’ to mean impairment but rather to refer to the disabling barriers of prejudice, discrimination and social exclusion that act against people with disabilities. Disability refers to the social limitations and role restrictions placed on people with impairments by their interaction with a physical and social environment which does not recognise their situations and their needs.While NWC uses the term disabled women in most of our communications, the word disabled woman or woman with a disability is used interchangeable by many of the women we work with.