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International Women’s Day and Disabilities

This week, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day and the intersectionality with disability. International Women’s Day on the 8th March is a global day for celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, along with a call to action to push for women’s equality. This year’s theme is “Choose to challenge”, and you’ll see that we have a long way to go for equality.

This week, my colleague Alicia will share some thoughts on women and girls with disabilities, and how much further we must challenge ourselves to support them.  Alicia is a user experience researcher and champion of accessibility who loves to share how inclusive design makes a better place for everyone.  

Photo of Alicia Crowther
Alicia Crowther

Globally, more women (19%) than men (12%) report having a disability. Women are less likely to have their pain treated or their symptoms taken seriously by medical professionals.  From heart attacks to autism, women are more likely to be misdiagnosed than men because research and diagnostic testing historically have focused on male bodies.

Even devices designed to support and keep women safe are not equal: 

Inequalities also exist in education:

Employment is challenging as well – up to 75% of women with disabilities are unemployed, and those in employment experience unfair hiring and promotion standards, lower pay and lack of equal access to training.

In their personal life, girls and women with disabilities:

Although most would agree that technology has made things simpler, there are still quite a few gaps:

  • Women have overall less access to assistive technology and mobility aids due to cost, access or tools that were not designed for them.
  • Women are around 50% less likely use the internet than men.

The Impact of the Pandemic on Women with Disabilities

Women with disabilities have a 3.5 times greater chance of death from the coronavirus in the UK than non-disabled women.  When hospitals become overwhelmed and reach capacity, they have decided that disabled lives just aren’t worth saving. To help these inequalities, the United Nations advocates for more inclusive policies, accessible communication plans and inclusion of women with disabilities in the service design and decision making processes.  

What You Can Do to Help

There are lots of things you can do about the disparities for disabled women. You can learn more by reading the International Disability Alliance’s “We, women and girls with disabilities want…” campaign to advance disabled women’s rights or the United Nation’s “The Empowerment of Women and Girls with Disabilities” strategy document. If you have more time, you can also find ways to campaign and volunteer both locally and globally about the issues that are important to you – WeSwim is a great example.

Thank you, Alicia, for this great article. If you liked it, you can follow her on LinkedIn or Medium for more stories about accessibility, disability inclusion and strategic change. We wish a great women’s day to all girls and women around the world.

The featured photo was taken by Tojo Andrianarivo, with make-up artistry from Lana Shapiro, for the Disabled And Here project.

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