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Women with disabilities bust myths to take charge of their health

March 23, 2016

“Most doctors and other health workers see only the disability someone may have. They do not see a person with a disability as a total person or woman. They think people with ‘impairments’ have something ‘wrong’ with them and must be cured, rehabilitated, or protected.”

— A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities

Women with disabilities face multiple barriers to good health due to misconceptions about their health needs and a lack of relevant health information. To help address these issues, Hesperian partnered with women with disabilities in 42 countries to create A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities to provide a clear, humanizing, and practical resource that dispels myths surrounding the needs of disabled women. 

One common myth is that women with disabilities don’t have sex and have no reproductive or sexual health needs. This often leads to poor care, misdiagnosis, and inadequate treatment.

Delphine, a woman with cerebral palsy, needed treatment for a sexually transmitted infection. Her doctor just assumed her symptoms were caused by her disability. Since he didn’t believe she could be sexually active, he didn’t test her for common STIs. Thankfully, her friends took her back to the doctor to help advocate for better care and she finally got treatment for her infection.

People can successfully advocate for their health needs when they work together. The Empowered Fe Fes, a group of disabled women in Chicago, couldn’t find up-to-date information for women with disabilities, so they decided to create their own short guide to reproductive health for women with disabilities.”Take Charge!“, written by and for disabled women, teaches how to understand and care for the particular needs of disabled women through self-care, conversation, and community outreach.

Also check out Health Actions for Women for strategies and tools to dispel stigmas and misconceptions around reproductive health and other topics central to the lives of all women, including women with disabilities.