Women with Disabilities

The monthly Women’s Centre Social Issues Discussion Series resumed on September 7, 2016 with a session on accessibility issues faced by women with disabilities. The discussion was led by Mary Salvani from Disability Action Hall and Women’s Centre volunteers Taylor Johnson and Gurbinder Manhas. All three spoke about their experiences as women with visible and invisible disabilities.

Statistics collected by the Government of Canada and Council of Canadians with Disabilities indicate that:

  • 14% of Canadians aged 15 years or older reported having a disability that limited them in their daily activities.
  • One-third of Aboriginal Canadians have a disability.
  • There are approximately 411,600 working-aged Canadians with disabilities who are unemployed, whose disability does not prevent them from working.
  • The unemployment rate is higher for disabled women than it is for men.
  • Canadians with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as those without disabilities.

The group discussed how disability can be defined not only by physical/mental function but also by lack of accessibility in the environment. Mary shared that people without disabilities are temporarily able-bodied, a status that can change to disabled at any time with accident, illness, or aging.  The panelists and audience shared their experiences with discrimination in employment, prejudice from those without disabilities, and barriers from lack of accessible public transportation and housing. Of particular concern is the limited services offered by Calgary Transit and local cab companies for people using wheelchairs and other mobility aids.

What can you do?

  1. Be a good ally! Here are some resources to learn more on how to do that:
    1. How to be an ally to people with invisible disabilities
    2. 5 Ways Able-Bodied People Can Do Better By People in Wheelchairs
  2. Speak about your experiences, or share something you’ve learned with other people in your community. Sparking a conversation is the first step in attaining social justice for this group of people.
  3. Reject ableism the same way you attempt to combat sexism, racism, homophobia, and classism!

This blog was written by Social Issue Committee volunteers Amy Heidman and Taylor Johnson.

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