Working for change 137
What families and caregivers can do
Friends and families of women with
disabilities can help by talking with
disabled women about how important it is
for all women to get regular exams. Learn
to describe what will happen during the
exam and why the results are important to
know. Encourage women with disabilities
to share what they know about exams and
the ways health workers can adapt the exams to their needs.
Offer to go with me to
get the health exam and
stay with me if I choose.
Also, talk about the barriers in clinics and hospitals that keep women with
disabilities from getting exams, and what can be done to make getting exams easier.
As your disabled daughter grows from a girl
into a woman, help her to not be afraid of exams.
Together, you and your daughter can work to
make sure clinics are accessible, health workers are
trained, and transportation is available.
Many women are
anxious or afraid the
first time they have
an exam, especially a
What health workers can do
Health workers can begin by talking with a woman before any exam. Explain what
is going to happen, answer her questions, and tell her she can ask questions during
the exam too.
Help women with disabilities understand why it is important for them to have
health exams, including both pelvic and breast exams. You can explain why these
exams are important for all women. Explain that a disabled woman can have these
exams, even if it is hard for her to move her arms and legs. Explain that disabled
women and their health workers have found many different positions women can
use for these exams. Remember that the disabled woman understands her body
better than anyone. So ask her to let you know how much she can move and if she
will need another person to help.
Women are often taught not to touch their own bodies, and not to complain.
Because of this, many women are uncomfortable doing the breast exam, or
telling someone they have an unusual pain in the belly. Women are sometimes
embarrassed to talk about sex or the sexual parts of the body. So it may be difficult
for them to talk about a discharge from the vagina. Health workers can help by
encouraging women in their communities to feel comfortable touching their bodies
and talking about any problems they may have.
Always speak directly to the disabled woman and ask her about her health
problem, even if there is someone else in the room assisting her. Talk with her as
you do with other people, even if she has difficulty speaking with you.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007