Talking about inclusion.
As the world celebrates ‘International Women’s Day’, the social conversation around gender inequality is at its most amplified for a generation. But, as a new charter for gender relations forms, disability voices remain dangerously diminished. ADD International's research shows that disabled women and girls are more likely to experience all forms of abuse than able bodied women, yet their voices are rarely heard within the women's movement. Our ambassador Sam Renke shares her views.
"Surprise surprise, women with disabilities are women too!
There have been a lot of positive movements in the United Kingdom as well as globally over the past few years. We have fought for gay marriage, we have recognised the rights of trans people and have embraced the LGBTQ community more than we ever have.
Women have become more empowered and found their voices like never before, standing up to and shaming those who have disempowered us.
We notably see better representation of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) within these movements, on our screens, in the world of fashion and in the media, all of which should be praised and celebrated. However, when I think about the words inclusion, equality, diversity, acceptance I don’t think about it in terms of disability and as a disabled woman I don’t feel as though I’m represented or respected in the women’s movement not nearly as much as I should. We are still the ‘minority’ that is forgotten about and left to the curb.
It’s imperative all women no matter their situation need to band together and show solidarity in order for any change, no matter how great or small! Not to go all Karl Marx on you, but ‘power to the masses’ and the masses include disabled women.
But before we can even talk about women with disabilities and their rights, we first need to go back to basics, sadly, when we talk about inclusion and disability. Society as a whole, both in the UK and globally, need to work to dispel stereotypes surrounding disability and understand that we are no longer this insignificant minority that can be brushed under a carpet, forgotten about and be treated as lesser human beings. Education is key and open discussions need to flow between all parties.
We also need to look at the practicalities of being part of any movement. Recently I was excluded from a housing meeting at my residence as the meeting was being held at an inaccessible venue. The venue and meeting had been organised by people who hadn't consulted the needs of the residents with mobility restrictions and therefore unconsciously denied me my right to vote on matters concerning where I live. It may sound like common sense however many people just aren't aware how many barriers disabled people face on a daily basis.
This isn’t the time for shying away from disability and feeling uncomfortable or awkward around disability. We need to overcome this fear of ‘putting our foot in it! so to speak. If we don’t overcome this we cannot move forward at all."