6 chapter 1: Disability and the community
What is disability?
Many women with disabilities use the term “impairment” to refer to their
individual limitations. These limitations may include blindness, deafness,
conditions that make it difficult or impossible to walk or to speak, conditions that
make it harder to understand or learn, and conditions that can cause seizures.
A woman with a disability may move, see, hear, or learn and understand differently
from a woman without a disability. She may take care of the activities of daily living
differently when she communicates, eats, bathes, dresses, gets up from lying down, and
carries or feeds her baby. Adapting to her limitations is an ordinary part of her life.
Our lower quality of
life is not caused by
our impairment, but
by social realities. The
solution does not lie
inside our bodies.
Despite each woman’s ability to find solutions
to problems caused by her disability, she also faces
social, physical, cultural and economic barriers that
can stop her from getting health care, education,
vocational training and employment.
Attitudes create barriers
Attitudes and wrong ideas about what a disabled woman can or cannot do can
prevent a disabled woman from living a full and healthy life, or taking part in
the life of her community. They add to her disability by creating barriers that can
prevent her from getting education or work, and from having a social life.
For example, a teacher may believe
a girl cannot learn because she is blind Many women with disabilities
or deaf. But a girl’s ability to see or
hear is not the problem. A girl who is
blind can learn by listening and using
other senses such as smell and touch.
are hidden away. We aren’t
included in community
activities because other
people think we are less
useful and of less value than
She can learn even more if she has
women without disabilities.
books in Braille or information on
audio cassettes. And a girl who is deaf
can learn when people use sign language and visual methods of teaching.
A woman who cannot walk may be capable of having a very good career and
be able to earn money to support her family. But if her family or community are
ashamed of the way she moves and want her to stay hidden, then it is their feelings
of shame that will make her disabled.
All communities include people with impairments. That is normal. But it is not
normal for a person to be discriminated against and excluded because she has an
impairment. That is disabling!
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007