Category Archives: Disabled Women

Austerity puts disabled women at greater risk of domestic violence

Austerity puts disabled women at greater risk of domestic violence

This is first posted on the  Sisters Uncut  blog.

Disabled women are 2-3 times more likely to experience domestic violence, but have greater barriers to accessing services. Often they are not believed or their experiences as disabled women are not understood. Perpetrators exploit disabled women by financially abusing them, isolating them from friends and family, withholding vital care or medication, and using​ their​ impairments ​to apply the form of ​​abuse

Austerity has robbed disabled women of independ​ent living​ in a number of ways. The closure of the independent living fund, the introduction of ESA and the inappropriate work capability assessment, the change to PIP and​ Motability (for adapted vehicles) as there is an arbitrary change to mobility eligibility.

This is a systematic erosion of disabled people’s rights. An erosion so grave the UN is investigating.

Women are told they ​have to use nappies inspite of not being incontinent. Never mind the indignity. Never mind the health risk from sores, a risk that is not needed. Children are removed from disabled mothers as social services deem them not to be capable of parenthood. Disabled ​w​omen wait in fear of the arbitrary sanctions from job centre and DWP letters informing them they no longer meet criteria for benefits.

This all feeds into vulnerability, isolation and dependency on​ possibly​ abusive partners.

The decimation of disabled people’s rights and independence, through the systematic removal of social security has had one particularly significant effect: disabled women are left at greater risk of domestic violence.

When it comes to state support for disabled women, social security is no ‘benefit’. In a world which denies disabled people access to education, employment, family life and public spaces this money is a small recognition of the barriers faced.

Disabled women experience a compound oppression. As at the same time their risk of violence increases, funding to domestic violence​ aid​ services is falling. This is despite an evidence need for MORE funding to ensure they are accessible and responsive to all disabled women . We need more specialist services and accessible helplines and information.

Without this ​support​ and funding, disabled women lose their​ ​independentt living​, their social circles, ​civil rights, choice and control. Isolation, dependence and vulnerability are ​exacerbated​ by austerity.

Austerity sets up the conditions where disabled women are ​more than ​2-3 time​s likely to experience domestic violence.



Destroy the Joint, sure, but feminism must include disability politics

Destroy the Joint, sure, but feminism must include disability politics

This is reposted from The Conversation which uses a Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives licence and with kind permission from Kate Ellis. We think this fits in very well with what was voiced at the panel on disabled women at Feminism in London.

The sometimes uneasy relationship between feminist groups and disability activists was highlighted last weekend, when online Australian feminist group Destroy the Joint (DTJ) blocked and banned a number of high-profile Australian disability activists, claiming the women were in breach of their rules.

DTJ had called for submissions to the hashtag #beingawoman on its Facebook page, sparked by a Buzzfeed article featuring both lighthearted and serious tweets reflecting on modern womanhood.

Several disability activists began posting their experiences, only to be deleted for being “repetitive, circular and off topic”.

The comments that were deleted included the following:

My doctor told me to get a hysterectomy or change my tampon in my office because there was no accessible toilet nearby at my workplace #beingawoman

when people deny my sexuality because they think disabled people having sex is disgusting #beingawoman

DTJ banned the commenters from its Facebook page, for “spamming this post and page with a large number of obvious half truths and distortions”.

After a number of members and disability activists encouraged the group to reconsider its stance on intersectional feminism, DTJ issued an apology yesterday afternoon:

Dear Destroyers,

Let us begin with a belated and unreserved apology about the way we have handled the comment moderation in this instance [the #beingawoman incident]. We acknowledge we can always be more inclusive.

We are constantly discussing ways we can achieve this and no woman living with disability should be excluded from this page. Anyone who has been banned as a result of this will be unbanned. Please email so we can be thorough about this.

It has always been our mission to include everyone and Counting Dead Women includes all women who have been killed as a result of gendered violence.

While it was a disappointing weekend for those of us who identify as both disabled and feminist, the gaffe has prompted a reflection on the ways disability politics are essential to feminist politics.

Intersectional feminism

Disability is a feminist issue and the silencing of disabled voices and experiences does not further the feminist cause. While the women posting on DTJ may have experienced gendered oppression, such as domestic violence, they are simultaneously affected by ableism.

American law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw described the ways minority groups experience multiple and overlapping oppression as intersectionality in 1989.

Women with Disabilities Australia recognises that, for women with disabilities, the effects of gendered oppression are compounded. As Sue Salthouse and Carolyn Frohmader explained in a 2004 presentation for the group:

Low levels of education relegate women with disabilities to lower echelons of society, limit their access to information and their ability to interpret it, limit their life choices and limit their ability to achieve financial and living independence.

Women with disabilities are also more likely to suffer domestic violence and sexual assault.

Feminist blogger and activist Clementine Ford told me via Facebook that this is the reason why disability politics must be included in feminism:

It is vital for feminism to focus on the impact of sexual violence, but how can we do that properly if we don’t acknowledge that 90% of women with an intellectual disability have experienced sexual assault?

Reproductive rights are core to feminism, yet they cannot be discussed without also hearing from the women whose impairments have led to doctors and carers deciding – without their permission – they must be sterilised in order to prevent the physical aftermath of sexual violence becoming a “problem”.

Just today, I read an article about two parents with cerebral palsy who have been “allowed” to keep their child. The dehumanisation of women with disabilities is appalling, but even worse is the way these issues are marginalised even within feminism.

Disability politics marginalised within feminism

In Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory (2002), Rosemarie Garland Thomson explains how both women and people with disabilities are considered “deviant and inferior” within cultural discourse and subsequently excluded from participation in public and economic life.

Other disability theorists suggest the reason women with disabilities have been excluded from mainstream feminist circles is because they are a reminder of vulnerability and lack of control, identities feminists have traditionally sought to reject.

Whereas disability was once thought of as an individual’s medical problem to overcome, following the work of disability activists such as the late Stella Young we are increasingly coming to recognise disability as a problem related to inaccessibility and negative attitudes. Disability, like gender, is a social construct.

We are all women

Back in 1988, disability theorist Susan Wendell called for a “feminist theory of disability” as a way to move forward in both disability politics and feminist theory. Wendell argued the oppression of disabled people is closely linked to the cultural oppression of the body. She believed a feminist theory of disability would “[liberate] both disabled and able-bodied people”.

Disability activist Samantha Connor, who was the first to be banned on DTJ for contravening its commenting guidelines, continues to see the importance of mainstream feminism in breaking down power imbalances for people with disabilities. As Connor explained to me:

We are all women, and the issues we face are issues faced by mainstream feminism, not by individuals or minority collectives.

The incident illustrates an important truth: being aware of intersectional oppression in 2015 should not be an optional “extra”, but fundamental to any social justice movement.

Correction: a previous version of this article contained a paragraph stating that criticism had also been also been levelled at DTJ over allegedly failing to include women with disabilities in their regular count of women who have died as a result of domestic violence or abuse. While that criticism exists, it is not substantiated.

Kate Ellis

Kate Ellis

Dr Katie Ellis is a Senior Research Fellow in the Internet Studies Department at Curtin University. She holds an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award studying disability and digital television. She has worked with people with disabilities in the community, government, and in academia and has published widely in the area of disability, television, and digital and networked media, extending across both issues of representation and active possibilities for social inclusion. Her most recent book with Gerard Goggin is ‘Disability and the Media’

Zara Todd : Have you always been disabled?

Zara Todd : Have you always been disabled?

If I had a pound for every time someone asked me this question or a less polite version such as what’s wrong with you? Have you always been like this? Were you born in a wheelchair? I would be a millionaire.

Now I know people are curious about disability (even if I don’t really get why) but do we really need a superhero like origin story can’t we just exist? While I generally humour the disability questions, providing people are politely I’m not going to lie it is irritating.

However recently Ive begun to realise all of these ‘origin’ questions are intensely personal and potentially traumatic. While seemingly most of the questions have yes or no answers in reality the conversation doesn’t stop there. For the majority of disabled people it’s either unclear when we acquired our impairments or the result of a traumatic experience. Meaning the answer to ‘have you always been disabled?’ becomes no or I don’t know. These answers invariably lead to more questions or an expectation of an explanation. I was trying to think of similarly personal question and the best I could come up with was why did you get divorced? Whilst some would ask the majority would let the affected party direct the conversation.

Despite having my impairments as long as I can remember and therefore the questions about my impairment for almost as long, until recently I didn’t really feel like I had any option but to answer. In part feeling compelled to answer questions about my impairment comes from growing up in systems which depend on that information to judge my eligibility for support combined with me being the first ‘severely’ disabled person in many of the environments I’ve accessed. However I now question how that information being disclosed to all and sundry has aided me. Yes as someone with support some people need to know what support I need but is do impairment labels or my history communicate my needs… Not fully.

I suspect it has taken longer for me to take ownership of my right not to disclose my ‘origin’ story because I’m a woman as often the refusal to disclose information is often seen as being aggressive regardless of how polite the denial.

I’m not against talking about impairment or disability in fact if we talked about them more maybe the novelty factor would wear off, however I believe that disabled people should have control over their own story and who they disclose it to.

Surely there are much more interesting conversations to be had.


Zara ToddZara Todd has been involved in young peoples and disability rights since she was 12 and has worked both in the UK and internationally trying to increase the voice of young disabled people.
Zara is currently chair of Inclusion London, a Deaf and disabled people’s organisation supporting Deaf and Disabled people’s organisation in London. She is an active member of the European Network on Independent Living running several trainings for young disabled people from across Europe.
She can be contacted at @toddles23

Disabled women at Feminism in London 2015

Disabled women at Feminism in London 2015

We were asked to organise a disabled women’s panel at this year’s Feminism in London Conference in October.

A big thank you to Lisa-Marie Taylor, FIL’s organiser, for inviting us!

We did some publicity by having a stall and we ‘re grateful to Annabel, Zara, Jacqueline and Sophie for helping us with the stall!

(Click on photos to get a bigger photo)

Real Media came to do do a short video feature on it – many thanks!

transcript FIL SOF panel (Word doc)

Frances Ryan also wrote a piece for the Guardian on the event A Disabled Woman’s struggle is any woman’s struggle

Obi was kind enough to video the whole event – if you wish to follow it in its entirety

great additions from Nidhi Goyal and Asha Hans Part 1

with Q&A from audience

Individual videos

Asha Hans video

TRANSCRIPT Asha Hans (Word doc)

Nidhi Goyal’s video

TRANSCRIPT Nidhi Goyal (Word doc)

Frances Ryan’s video

TRANSCRIPT Frances Ryan (Word doc)

Becky Olaniyi s video

TRANSCRIPT Becky Olaniyi  (Word doc)

Rebecca Bunce’s video

TRANSCRIPT Rebecca Bunce (Word doc)

Kirsten Hearn’s video

TRANSCRIPT Kirsten Hearn (Word doc)

Thank you all for having taken part in the event!

Disability is not our only identity: An interview with Becky Olaniyi

Disability is not our only identity: An interview with Becky Olaniyi
Becky Olaniyi

Becky Olaniyi

In anticipation of this year’s Feminism In London conference (October 24-25), Alicen Grey talks with Becky Olaniyi about disability, feminism, and the challenges and lessons of being an activist at the intersection of identities.

See the rest of the interview at the Feminist Curent.

Becky is the youngest member of our steering group but she’s a brilliant speaker. Its not too late to get tickets for the workshop. And if you have difficulties paying, just let them know.

Feminism in London: Disabled Women’s panel, London 25th October

Feminism in London: Disabled Women’s panel, London 25th October

flyerFeminism in London panel on 25th Oct sunday 12.30 Hilton Metropole London

Multiple Identities: ordinary lives: The challenges of being disabled and feminist

Disabled women’s rights are human rights! Disability can be physical, mental, neurological, hidden or visible. This panel will look at activism through the prism of disability and feminism and seek to explore further the intersection and challenges of being between the two and the capacity of the two movements to work for change.

Kirsten Hearn (Chair)
Becky Olaniyi (Sisters of Frida)
Rebecca Bunce (ICChange)
Asha Hans ( Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre. &. Women with Disabilities India by video link)
Frances Ryan (Guardian journalist)
Nidhi Goyal (CREA: disability and sexuality by video link)

Tickets available now

The conference address: Hilton Metropole conference suite at the Hilton Metropole Hotel, 225 Edgware Road, London W2 1JU. It is very close to Edgware Road tube station. It’s fully accessible.
it is on Sunday 25th at 12:30-2pm, except for speakers – you need to buy a ticket.

Sisters of Frida: Disability & Sex/uality Workshop, Part 1

Sisters of Frida: Disability & Sex/uality Workshop, Part 1

Disability & Sex/uality

Workshop, Part 1  

Sisters of Frida invites you to the first Disability and Sex/uality workshop on 19 September 2015 at Unity Church Hall, 1-5pm. This workshop is for self-identified disabled women who want to create a space to talk about disability, sex and sexuality.

The workshop

As disabled women we have a wide range of experiences, positive and negative, around disability, sex and sexuality. Disabled women are sexy, sexual, passionate, loving, caring, desirable, hot, beautiful, strong and much more! Our experiences of sexuality are also affected by different kinds of oppressions as ableism, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, classism and age.

This workshop is the first meeting of the project Disability and Sex/uality we are developing. In this workshop we will explore the different themes around sex and sexuality that arise from our experiences. We will also look at what we want to explore more and what work needs to happen to develop this project.

The project

The idea for this project arose from a screening of the documentary AccSex, which showed how a group of disabled women in India experience their sexuality. This project is part of Sisters of Frida. We are setting up this project out of a need to create a space where we can safely discuss our sexuality in a supportive and empowering environment.


The topics we will discuss can be sensitive, for this reason, please contact us directly to register and discuss participation as this will be a closed meeting: Note that places are limited, please get in touch as soon as possible. Deadline for registration is 6 September.

Accessibility and needs

The venue is wheelchair accessible. There is an accessible toilet, but without a hoist. There is a small room that people can use for quiet-time. Please get in touch as soon as possible if you need BSL, transcription or if you have other access needs. If you have any concerns or queries about the nature of what might be discussed in the workshop and how it could relate to your experiences, please get in touch. This is a peer-support group, we cannot offer professional support.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Date: 19 September 2015

Time: 1pm – 5pm

Where: New Unity Unitarians

Address: 277A Upper Street, Islington, London N1 2TZ

Deadline for registration: 6 September 2015

Accessibility: Please get in touch to discuss your needs

Violence Against Disabled Women – an European report

Violence Against Disabled Women – an European report

While we were at the Screening AccSex event at Leeds University, Sarah Woodin presented the findings of their report Access to Specialised Victim Support Services for Women with Disabilities who have experienced Violence which included guidance from Ruth Bashall and Susie Balderston.



This research is investigating violence against disabled women and their access to specialised women’s support services. Funded through the European Commission’s Daphne III programme and with international leadership from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, the project is running from 2013 to 2015 in four countries:

About the research

There are several elements, which include:

  1. Assessment of  the legal and policy framework
  2. Generation of extensive new data from disabled or Deaf women (through focus group discussions, in-depth-interviews) and service providers (online-survey, interviews with staff members), and
  3. Development of good practice examples and recommendations.  

187 disabled women from the four countries took part (106 women in focus groups and 81 women in individual interviews). They included women with mobility or sensory impairments, women with intellectual impairments, women with mental health conditions and women with multiple impairments. Specialised service providers assisting women who have experienced violence also took part in this study (there were in total 602 responses to an online survey and 54 individual interviews with representatives from services). However, the numbers are only provided here as an indication of the scale of the research. The focus was on exploring barriers and issues in depth rather than on recruiting statistically representative samples.

The Problem of Violence against Disabled Women

Disabled women experience a very wide range of types of violence. They report the same types of violence as non-disabled women, but also abuse that is specific to disabled people, and that takes place in a wider range of places and is enacted by more kinds of perpetrators. Domestic violence is substantial and highly damaging for disabled women, but violence also encompasses institutional violence from carers, where women live in residential homes or from assistants where they receive help to live in their own homes. ‘Hate’ violence and crime was also described, where women are abused on the basis of who they are seen to be. Violence is often directed towards perceived areas of weakness, such as attacks that focus on women’s impairments, often arising or increasing at the onset of impairment and at times when women need more help, such as during pregnancy and childbirth or if their residency status is uncertain. Although violence is most prevalent for young adult women, participants report experiencing violence at all stages of the life course and sometimes in many different settings.

Support to Counter Violence

A formidable array of barriers are identified by disabled women in relation to securing assistance and achieving a violence – free life. At a micro, individual level,   the active isolation of women by perpetrators, combined with the inaccessibility of services and a lack of knowledge and capacity to help, all result in keeping disabled women away from support services. Macro level systemic barriers include the ways that funding and administrative regimes combine to make movement away from repeat violence situations very difficult. The project is highlighting the dynamics of this pressing social problem and setting out the steps that need to be taken to prevent and address this abuse. Examples of good practice and innovation in each of the countries are also being documented.

Project Publications

UK Reports and Working Papers

Working Papers:


International Project Findings and Publications The main project website is maintained by  the international project co-ordinator, the Ludwig Bolzmann Institute, Austria

The site has reports and other publications from all four counties, in a range of accessible formats.

Screening AccSex London : sexuality and disability & next steps

Screening AccSex London : sexuality and disability & next steps

Report written by Lani Parker with additions from Eleanor Lisney

People were pleased with the turnout and it was a good opportunity to network and talk to each other.
The film generally had good feedback. There was discussion on many topics, including who the film was
aimed at, the editorial devices which were used (such as changing the subtitles in order to give a “feeling
of exclusion”), and the Indian context. It was felt that it was a good film to get discussion going. We thanked Shweta Ghosh with a little momento (Happy Potter mug) from London.

Next steps

– Michelle and Charlotte had ideas for showing the film in different places and will get in touch with
Shweta to organise purchase of film and further screenings.
–  Shweta said that she will write a booklet to go with the film so that issues which have been commonly brought up at the screenings can be discussed and contextualised.

After the film we had a presentation from Stay Safe East (Ruth Bashall and Lucia Bellini) about their work with disabled women, particularly around domestic violence (their remit is slightly bigger than this). There was discussion on the specialist nature of the work running women’s support groups and the need for further groups like this.

Ruth would like to see the work done around the Serious Crime Bill and domestic violence taken forward to lobby the CPS around their guidance for the bill and they (as Stay Safe East) will be meeting with Women’s Aid shortly. Eleanor and others expressed a wish for Sisters of Frida to be involved with this work.

Eleanor, Ruth and Lucia to take forward work with CPS and Women’s Aid on the issue and the Bill specifically.

There was a discussion about a forum or space for disabled women to talk about sex, sexuality and intimacy. This is a big topic and there are many issues, including lack of information, intersections of identity and oppressions, types of impairments, and PAs’ involvement in relationships. Laki said that there is a need for a physical drop-in as well as information online and perhaps an online forum discussing the issues.

There are many things to consider with an online forum. Ruth said that GAD have a forum but it is by invitation. Seems like a sensible idea to explore along with online safety issues in the future if we were to take forward this idea. The idea would be to have a website and resources, perhaps a forum and an informal drop-in.

–  Laki and Dyi to set up meeting for Sisters of Frida to start to discuss these issues amongst ourselves and to look at collating resources.

–  Ruth to send resources she already has access to.

We discussed about funding and future strategy and future steps.

Lucia Bellini’s speech for Million Women Rise 2015 at Trafalgar Square

Lucia Bellini’s speech for Million Women Rise 2015 at Trafalgar Square


Sisters of Frida Steering group member, Lucia, spoke for disabled women against domestic violence and violence against women at Million Women Rise at Trafalgar Square. Lucia works to tackle violence and abuse against disabled and Deaf people.

Lucia and Ruth Bashall from StaySafe East

Lucia and Ruth