Women and Disabilities
Maintaining good health is especially challenging for our nation's 26 million women with disabilities, say experts at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Barriers to accessing health care and lack of knowledge about wellness in the context of disability have resulted in substantially higher rates of diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and depression among women with physical limitations.
"We have plenty of evidence that women with disabilities face incredible barriers to maintaining their health," said Dr. Margaret Nosek, executive director of the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities at BCM. "What we need to do now is let the women and those who care about them know that wellness is possible despite physical limitations."
Some things a woman with a disability can do to turn the odds in her favor include:
- Believe in yourself. You have the strength to meet challenges and make decisions. Messages of empowerment and connection with other women with disabilities can significantly reduce depression, one of the most problematic consequences of disability.
- Honor your body. Whatever it takes, keep moving. Stretch, breathe deeply, relax and eat well. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. You deserve to be healthy and safe.
- Be a thread in the fabric of your community. Relationships are the life blood of women. Whatever your limitations, it's worth the trouble to get out and around and find new things to do. Spend time with the people who support you and appreciate you.
- Defy the myths. It is all right to ask for help or use a hearing aid, a cane, a scooter, or a wheelchair. Explore new ways to get things done and maintain your independent state of mind.
- Demand Answers. Refuse to accept the phrase, "That's to be expected." Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Don't give too much value to what's "normal." You're the expert on yourself.
"Women with disabilities constitute one of the largest and fastest growing segments of the U.S. population," says Nosek, who has a severe physical disability and uses a ventilator. "Thanks to advances in medical science, those of us who have had disabilities since childhood and women who acquire disabilities as they age are able to live much longer and have higher quality lives than even one generation ago."
Over the past decade, CROWD has documented health disparities between women with disabilities and women in general.