“I have to ask to be included…”
Women who have disabilities are not always in poor health, though the two are often conflated, which increases stigma and discrimination for women. Some chronic diseases can lead to disability, and some disabilities can lead to chronic illness. Mostly, though, health for women with disabilities is influenced by their experiences of adversity and reduced access to resources.
Women with disability have distinct experiences of health and wellbeing arising from the intersection between disability discrimination and gender discrimination. This document reports on survey and focus group research conducted by Women’s Health Matters in 2021 and makes recommendations towards improving the health and wellbeing of women with disabilities in the ACT.
Recommendation 1: ACT Government and relevant stakeholders ensure that women with disabilities are considered a distinct cohort in the ACT Disability Health Strategy, their voices listened to and their needs addressed.
Recommendation 2: ACT Government to include actions within the Disability Health Strategy to maximise an integrated and coordinated approach to care, incorporating measures such as colocation of services to make health care more affordable and less burdensome for women with disabilities.
Recommendation 3: ACT Government to work with relevant stakeholders to fund and promote more disability informed mental health services
Recommendation 4: ACT Government to continue to support the functionality of health technology, such as Telehealth, in public services and work with the Commonwealth as necessary in order to support remote access to health services, as in-person attendance at health services can be a barrier for women with disabilities.
Recommendation 5: ACT Government to work with relevant stakeholders to improve the availability of appropriate sexual and reproductive health services for women with disabilities, and to promote these services widely with regard to the needs of women with disabilities in their diversity.
Recommendation 6: ACT Health to work with other government agencies (such as the Office for Disability) and community organisations (such as WWDACT and WHM) to provide health information that is accessible and suitable to women with disabilities in their diversity, in a process that identifies the most urgently needed types of information and formats (e.g. Easy English, videos in Auslan, screen reader friendly websites).
Recommendation 7: ACT Government to work with relevant community organisations and service providers to improve access to high-quality individual advocacy in the ACT, in order to support decision making and navigation through the complex and often fragmented health system.
Recommendation 8: ACT Government to work with relevant stakeholders such as WWDACT to identify improvements needed to ensure access to high-quality, disability-sensitive maternity services and parenting support, and to make improvements as required.
Recommendation 9: ACT Government to work with community and business groups to improve the availability of accessible and flexible workplaces for women with disabilities, wherever possible on a universal basis to reduce stigma, since employment supports financial independence and equitable participation.
Recommendation 10: ACT Government to work with relevant stakeholders to increase the availability of affordable and accessible opportunities for healthy activity and social events.