Women with Disabilities

Guest post by Pat Hunt

Women’s issues continue to be in the news lately.  Former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, has written a book about women.  Arianna Huffington has written a book for women. Hillary Clinton discusses women’s issues at a college.  General Dynamics appoints a female President and COO.  Getty Images continues to promote Sheryl Sandberg’s initiative with “Lean In.”  Statistics continue to show that women hold a high percentage of jobs in the workforce, but still represent less than five percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs.

© Mark Hunt/Disability Images
Teacher with spinal cord injury © Mark Hunt/Disability Images

All of these issues highlight amazing developments of the era in which we live.  As a woman of the 60s, I remember being encouraged to attend college to get my “MRS” degree.  I remember the available jobs being that of flight attendant, nurse and teacher.  I remember the time before there was “no-fault” divorce, and the need to separate women’s credit ratings from their husband’s.  I remember the controversy brought on by such names as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem.

© Mark Hunt/Disability Images
Two sisters, one with a learning disability © Mark Hunt/Disability Images

In spite of the long history of female empowerment and significant gains in the work place, I am still most impressed by the everyday accomplishments of women with disabilities.  Women and girls of all ages may face barriers to equality, but women with disabilities can be more vulnerable and marginalized.  Women with disabilities can be at greater risk of abuse and exploitation.  They face greater barriers to social life.  They experience more unequal hiring and promotion standards.  Women with disabilities may face less physical access to health services.  They may not have the ability to fully participate in cultural, political or economic initiatives.  Their steps forward into a lifestyle and career may be fraught with more potholes than the average woman.

Woman signing the phrase 'I Love You ' in American sign language while communicating with her son © Mark Hunt/Disability Images
Woman signing the phrase ‘I Love You ‘ in American sign language while communicating with her son © Mark Hunt/Disability Images

Yet, the women with disabilities that I have met on my life’s journey have been my greatest inspiration.  I have enjoyed their positive spirit and goal setting.  I have learned from their self-confidence and security with body image.  I have been emboldened by their aggressiveness in job seeking and the demand for inclusiveness.  I have been excited by their push to learn and be educated, to have families, and responsibilities, to participate in sports and command a presence.  I continue to be inspired by the people I meet, but especially the women with disabilities.

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