Saturday, November 18, 2006

Is disabled accessibility a feminist issue?

Blue from The Gimp Parade here. I'm imposing on Echidne's standing offer to contribute to her snake pit on weekends with this particular post because the comments that followed it on my blog showed me that the answer to the title question is something of a group project. Read the comments to this post on my blog here. And feel free to comment below, of course.

The above question is another google search that led to my blog even though I don't have any posts that address this specifically. So, I thought it was about time.


The Phoenix, Arizona chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women) used to meet on the inaccessible second floor of a building. I don't know if they do any more. I'd called once, after driving by with my mother and finding that any bus ride to that location to attend a meeting would only end with me hanging out wistfully in the parking lot. The woman I'd mentioned this access problem to on the phone seemed at a loss to address the problem, and either uninterested or so overwhelmed by the issue that she really couldn't be bothered to consider it seriously. And that was the beginning and end of my relationship with Phoenix NOW, though I did help run a Tempe/ASU campus chapter for a year or two.

Wherever women gather to discuss or protest about civil rights and equality, disabled women should be able to be present and to communicate too. This includes blogs, by the way, though not all blogging formats are equally accessible to blind people.

Here are some other reasons the answer will always be "yes."

Wherever women are left to be the primary unpaid caregivers to disabled family members, their work should not be complicated by inaccessibility that isolates them and the loved ones they help or plummets them into abject poverty.

Wherever women with disabilities are poor because of discrimination and lack of access to gainful employment, disability access is a feminist issue.

Wherever primarily immigrant and minority women hold jobs in nursing homes as low-paid nursing assistants, the problems of the disabled will affect these other women and their livelihoods too.

Wherever backbreaking labor-heavy jobs do not provide adequate health care for the physical problems employment causes, disabled accessibility is a feminist issue.

Wherever minority children are more likely to be considered learning disabled or developmentally disabled and denied equal or adequate educations because of this, disabled accessibility is a feminist issue.

Wherever women or minorities are more likely to be considered mentally ill than men or white folks, disabled accessibility to mental health treatment (at the very least) is a feminist issue.

Wherever war rages and survivors are left with permanent disabilities, especially those places where disabled women are determined unmarriageable, unemployable or banished from their own homes, accessibility for the disabled is about women and feminist issues.

Wherever standards of fashion and beauty create inequalities that primarily impact women, accessibility for those whose bodies or minds are deemed abnormal, culturally unfashionable and ugly (or even dangerous) is a feminist issue.

Wherever race, ethnicity, sex or gender differences and variations are treated as bodily abnormalities or flaws to legitimize discrimination, disability is being invoked as a reason for prejudice and denying some people equal consideration as human beings.

Wherever the right to reproductive choices is limited and the politics of choosing includes prejudices about who is and is not worthy to parent, disabled accessibility to medical care, supportive doctors and reproductive freedom is a feminist issue.

Wherever women are, there will be some disabled women. Wherever feminism seeks to include all women in its agenda, the problems of disabled women will be a feminist issue.

Can you think of any more?