Change the lifestyle
A woman with a disability can become more healthy when those around value and support her. Changing the way women
with disabilities are treated is hard work. But it is not impossible.
What Women WIth DIsabilities Can Do
Make your voices heard by advocating for your rights and making sure disability issues become a priority.
•Refuse to be conflned to one place. Be adventurous and welcome different experiences.
•Learn business skills, and empower yourself economically.
•Insist on participating at all levels in the community.
•Become role models for other girls and women.
•Speak about your disabilities.
•Offer to accompany other disabled girls and women to where they need to go.
•Take part in sport.
Together you can decide what things in your community can be changed in order to make life better for all. For example, you can:
•start a literacy class for the women who cannot read or write.
•start a small business together, making and selling crafts or tools.
•share information with each other about community services and work together to make them more accessible.
•try to get funds either through a low-interest loan or through a donation—to begin an income-earning project or to make the community more accessible.
•raise awareness about disabilities and advocate for new ways of thinking about independence.
•work with local leaders or the government to get better treatment for women with disabilities.
You can also help community groups:
•Look at the different causes of health problems that you and other women with disabilities face, and decide which ones the community can change.
•Take action by advocating for activities and services that make life better for everyone, including better health care, education, and transport for people with disabilities. Insist on accessible facilities.
•Set up a small group. The voice of an organization is stronger than the voice of an individual. Make a plan about what the group
will do and what steps the group will take to carry out each of these ideas.
•Raise your voice against policies and laws that discriminate against you.
What Families Can Do
The way women with disabilities are treated by their families, friends, and other people who assist them makes a big difference. Many times a girl with a disability is seen as stupid, dependent, unable to help herself and others, and therefore does not deserve any resources. Sometimes families also see her as a shameful burden to be hidden away, and they deny her the right to be heard or to make her own decisions. If this happens in a family or community, the problem is not with a girl or woman with disability, but with the people around her.
The only thing that can change these attitudes is social awareness. Women and girls with disabilities need good food, education, health care, and opportunities to be involved in physical and social activities. See the chapters on ‘Mental Health’ and ‘Support for Caregivers.’
In their first years of life, all children will learn more physical, mental, communication, and social skills and learn them more quickly and easily than at any other time in their lives. Since a baby starts learning as soon as she is born, it is important that families begin giving extra attention to help children with disabilities as soon as possible.
This is important because each new skill a child learns builds on the skills she already has. Each new skill also makes it possible for her to learn other, more difficult skills. So when a child does not learn a skill, she cannot learn other skills that depend on it.
Start A Support Group For Parents Of Disabled Children
Women with disabled children are often deserted by their partners and have to bring up their children by themselves. Parent support groups can help. Adult women with disabilities can offer advice on the types of concerns that girls with disabilities will face as they are growing. This can help their mothers support them better. You can also start a support group for teenage girls with disabilities so they can help and support each other.
What Communities Can Do
Community groups can help government, health workers, teachers, community-based rehabilitation workers, and community leaders learn about disability issues. They can also make the public aware through street plays, discussions, and
in other ways that women with disabilities have the same rights to education, health care and transportation as non-disabled people. Communities can create employment opportunities and give information about services for women with disabilities.
Girls and women with disabilities become confident, believe in themselves, and grow to their full potential when parents and families love and accept them, and when they can get education, jobs, and health care. All community resources, such as schools, banks, religious places, hospitals, and clinics must also become accessible for everyone.
Education is very important for girls with disabilities, including education in sign language and Braille or audio cassettes, for
girls who are deaf, or blind.In many poor countries, if disabled girls are not able to go to school and get an education, they may end up begging to survive when they are adults.
It can make a big difference when a whole community works for educational rights for people with disabilities. Community-based groups can discuss problems and encourage everyone, including other children, to welcome and respect girls with disabilities. They can arrange opportunities for early childhood education, or access government grants, or help in other ways.
With education, girls with disabilities can support and enrich their communities.
Make communities accessible for everyone
All around the world, women with disabilities are organizing to help make clinics, schools, markets, city streets, buses, and communities more accessible for people with disabilities.
Communities can make sure buildings and roads are accessible when they are first built rather than changing them later. This way all public facilities are as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability, or situation. They will serve people
who are young or old, with excellent or limited abilities, in ideal or difficult circumstances.
But access is about more than physical things such as ramps. Accessibility also means everyone can communicate and understand what is happening. Then a woman with a disability can do more things for herself and more people will see that disability is a natural part of life. When disabled women are valuable members of the community, the community will start thinking differently about disability.
Governments must provide the resources necessary to make transportation systems, buildings, public programs and facilities easy to use for everyone, including women with disabilities. Some governments penalize those who refuse to cooperate.
Here is a story about people with disabilities who formed a group that made great change in their city.
Making a city accessible
In Ekaterinburg, Russia, the Freedom of Movement Society has been working together with the city government to make their city more accessible. Russian law requires that people with disabilities should be able to use public buildings and buses, but many places are still not accessible. The city government in Ekaterinburg developed a disability program to make buildings accessible.
But a group of people with disabilities who use wheelchairs or crutches realized that, even though the government had been trying to help, many of the places they had changed were still hard for disabled people to use. They realized the government could not do it without the help of people with disabilities.
So the people with disabilities formed the Freedom of Movement Society. They started by making a list of the most important
places in the city to make accessible. They met with city ofācials, and showed them the list. The city realized they needed the advice
of people with disabilities. The Freedom of Movement Society made sure their members were included in the city committee that
became responsible for improving access.
The people with disabilities had to approve any project the committee decided to do.
The Freedom of Movement Society created guidelines that architects could use to make buildings accessible. They were able to take photographs of buildings they wanted to fix, and then draw clear pictures of how to make changes.
Now, the old buildings are slowly being changed. And the new guidelines are used all over the city. Because of the work of the Freedom of Movement Society, all new ofāce buildings and many other buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. New sidewalks are lowered in places for people who use wheelchairs. The new city mall is easy for people with disabilities to use.
The Freedom of Movement Society also got the city to make several schools as well as the city’s movie theater accessible.
•Organize social activities that help disabled girls come out of their homes and meet other people with disabilities and other young girls.
•Share information about finding or creating work.
•Support women who are treated badly at home or in public or in the workplace.
•Offer training in leadership and social skills.
Communities are stronger when everyone is included
Women with disabilities must be heard when decisions are made at every level and about every issue—not just disability issues. No one has all the answers. Everyone, women and men, both with and without disabilities, people who struggle for human rights, and for the rights of workers and for the dignity of women in all parts of the world must join together to support women with disabilities to live healthy, independent, and productive lives. By making sure we nurture life in each of us, and learn from each other, we can build a more just world for all of us.