Saturday, January 21st in Washington, D.C. is going to be a big day.
It’s the day of the Women’s March, and it’s also expected to be the “largest gathering of people with disabilities in U.S. history,” which is completely believable, given the threats that we are facing with the coming Trump administration, and the growing organization of the disability and Deaf communities on social media.
There will be women’s marches all across the United States that will correspond with the march in D.C. – I will be attending the one in Eureka, CA (if you are local, email me and let’s meet up for it).
And for those who can’t physically march or be present, there is an online option now, with the Virtual March.
In this post, I just wanted to share the info on the Deaf Women’s March in DC, the hashtags for the marches, and the powerful Disability Caucus Statement.
Women's March Washington - Disability Caucus Statement on Why We March
According to the US Census, one-in-four women in the United States report having a disability. Our diversity crosses lines of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, political affiliation, socio-economic level, and faith.
Though we have the same rights as our fellow Americans, and face the same issues, our challenges in attaining our goals are significantly increased as the result of remaining barriers and discrimination, intentional or not.
As mothers, sisters, daughters, and contributing members of this great nation, we seek to break barriers to access, and join others who want inclusion, independence, and the full enjoyment of citizenship at home and around the world. We strive to be fully included in and contribute to all aspects of American life, economy, and culture.
Women with disabilities and Deaf women have fought for progressive gains in public policy and societal culture for over 150 years in the US. Since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, a generation of Americans has benefited from and continues to enjoy the protections and rights guaranteed by our laws and Constitution. Because of our collective work with our allies, life has improved for many women with disabilities. We have watched as the first generation of children with disabilities have grown up with full legal protection from discrimination and hate crimes. But the goal of inclusion and respect for the dignity of all Americans is not yet fulfilled, and work remains to be done.
We have seen remarkable progress towards inclusion during the Obama administration, including the enactment of new regulations to increase accessibility to modern communications (i.e., via internet, television, and film); opening doors to jobs in the Federal Government and with its contractors; providing new opportunities for disabled veterans; protecting access to healthcare for young individuals as well as those with preexisting conditions; and many other innovative and progressive civil rights programs that enable Americans with disabilities to contribute to and participate in society alongside their peers.
Our forward momentum must not stop!
We are joining other communities’ intent on creating positive change by participating in the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017, including the National and Sister marches.
We believe that ALL women’s issues are issues faced by women with disabilities and Deaf women. Women with disabilities and Deaf women must be at the table among all minorities and groups in setting any agenda impacting women in this country.
We acknowledge that women with disabilities and Deaf women include women across race, ethnic, religious communities, the LGBTQIA communities, indigenous women and those from tribal communities, immigrant women, and women currently living within the prison industrial complex.
Any principles or policies coming out of this document must take into account intersecting concerns faced by our community.
- Access to reproductive health care services and information. Maintain and improve access to reproductive health care in all forms, including, but not limited to, birth control, fertility treatment, and preventive care. Because women with disabilities are disproportionately living at or below the poverty line, they are at even greater risk for poor reproductive health.
Women with disabilities and Deaf women demand access to reproductive health care without physical, communication, or financial barriers. Reproductive health care information must also be provided in accessible formats. Additionally, women with disabilities should not be sterilized or forced to undergo any procedure without consent.
- Expand Veterans Services Benefits Specific to Women. Women are serving in record numbers and are increasingly at-risk to service-related injuries and mental health issues.
An influx of women veterans has overloaded the already taxed Veteran Affairs’ (VA) Hospitals. An estimated one-third of the VA’s medical centers lack a gynecologist on staff and 31% of VA centers say they don’t have adequate services to treat military sexual trauma.
More women are wounded on the battlefield and coming home with missing limbs. They are less likely than their male counterparts to have a prosthetic that fits properly. The VA needs to increase the breadth of health services tailored for women veterans and reduce the wait times so that women veterans receive the care they need and deserve.
- Recognize the importance of intersectionality.
It is important to remember that disabled girls and women face obstacles and oppressions outside of their disability identities. Particularly, girls and women of color with disabilities undergo hardships that are not discussed within both the disabled community and the broader society. Disabled girls and women of color have triple jeopardy status, meaning that they endure prejudices, discrimination, and barriers to access and inclusion due to being disabled, female, and of color.
• Fair Pay. Women with disabilities make 72 cents on the dollar compared to men without disabilities and women of color with disabilities earn even less. Women with disabilities are often the breadwinners and caregivers of their own homes. When you take into account the added costs of living with a disability, this continues to be an unacceptable margin.
We need to incentivize a move towards supported employment programs to improve the quality of life for individuals currently employed in subminimum wage programs.
• Paid Family Leave.
Women with disabilities are disparately more likely to work in occupations that do not offer paid leave. Paid family leave allows workers to take an extended absence from work while guaranteeing that they will still have a job upon their return and can continue progressing in their career. This is critical for ensuring that women with disabilities enter and remain in the workforce and mothers of girls with disabilities won’t be penalized for caregiving.
• Justice Reform. Include women with disabilities and the issues they face in all discussions of justice reform, in the community, the cellblock, and the courtroom. Women with disabilities, particularly those of color, LGBTQI, and/or Deaf, are disparately abused or killed by law enforcement, arrested, incarcerated, and lack access to services and supports both while incarcerated and upon transitioning.
We need better data collection to determine the scope of the problem and develop accountability measures accordingly. We need increased funding for inclusive community engagement and restorative justice programs and training tied to performance standards and funding. Finally, there is an urgent need for a fundamental shift in how law enforcement engages with the disability community as victims of violence and hate crimes, witnesses, and perpetrators.
• Alternatives to Guardianship. Provide alternatives to guardianship, such as self-determination and supported decision-making, for women with intellectual, developmental, mental health disabilities. Decision making is a human right and should not require a four-year waiting period.
- Civil Rights of Parents with Disabilities. Like nondisabled women, women with disabilities and Deaf women must be afforded their fundamental right to raise a family.
In 37 states, women with disabilities can lose their children solely on the basis of disability. Family courts must take the ADA into account to ensure that children are not being removed from disabled headed households unjustifiably and that women with disabilities be given equal access to adoption and foster care as nondisabled people.
- Safety and Shelter. Women with disabilities are disparately more likely to be victims of intimate partner, family, or caregiver violence.
Currently, most domestic violence and women’s shelters are not accessible nor do they provide services and supports in accessible formats, a situation that must be remedied. Additionally, all crisis hotlines must provide text alternatives to support the needs of Deaf and nonverbal individuals.
- Access and Funding for Mental Health Care. Access and funding must be available for mental health services the same as it is for physical health care.
Women with other disabilities may also have a mental health disability. This may or may not have anything to do with her primary condition. That being said, women with disabilities need equal access to mental health treatment in terms of physical access, attitudinal access, and financing the care.
This must include focused care on trauma based mental health disabilities. Mental health care services must be community-based, voluntary, recovery-oriented, and include peer supports.
Forced mental health treatment is a human rights abuse; coercion must not be used, and people with a psychiatric diagnosis must have the same rights to protected medical information as all other individuals. Finally, mental health services must be accessible to all women, regardless of disability or status.
- Access to treatment for HIV/AIDS.
Women with disabilities have higher rates of acquiring HIV because of lack of access to health services and limited accessible information. Women with disabilities are also more likely to transition to AIDS due to lack of access to healthcare. We need to ensure they receive treatment and care that is culturally competent, and physically, attitudinally, and linguistically accessible.
- Integrated Education.
We must ensure that our girls and women with disabilities receive free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment from K-12 through post-secondary. We must end seclusion and restraint of girls with disabilities.
We need girls with disabilities to receive equal access to sexual education and abuse prevention programming. We need a reevaluation of disciplinary policies and procedures that disparately suspend and expel students with disabilities. We also need to provide appropriate support for bilingual ASL/English education for young girls who are deaf so they remain competent in both languages.
- Environmental Justice:
We must affirm the importance of environmental justice and the need to look at how changes to the environment increase the numbers of people with disabilities, and disproportionately impact women with disabilities.
Due to the high poverty rate of women with disabilities, exposure to lead contaminated water, low income housing’s proximity to power plants, the impact of chemical spills and natural disasters, environmental issues are disability issues.
To that end, the following recommendations pertain to specific policies that women with disabilities feel strongly about.
- Ratification of the International Disabilities Treaty.
The US must ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Enforcement of Disability Rights Laws.
The federal government and the judicial system must continue enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act, Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and amendments signed by both Democrats and Republicans.
- Enactment of the Disability Integration Act.
Congress must act swiftly and in a bipartisan manner to pass the Disability Integration Act, ensuring and expanding the rights of Americans with disabilities of all ages to live independently in their own communities.
- Expand Health Care. The US must continue and expand health care coverage to protect people from discrimination based on pre-existing medical or disability conditions; provide affordable and meaningful long-term services and supports for seniors and people with disabilities; provide effective and universal parity for people with mental health and addiction recovery needs; eliminate discriminatory practices among health care and health insurance providers; assure reproductive health care to all Americans with disabilities, including transgender Americans with disabilities; oppose any Medicaid block grant and/or per capita cap that results in the reduction of services to low income people; and ensure development, dissemination, use and access to medical equipment and devices that will allow Americans with disabilities to maintain independence and quality health care equal to all other Americans.
- Uphold the Right to Community Living. The federal government and the judicial system must continue to enforce the rights of Americans to live independently in their own communities as ordered by the Supreme Court in the Olmstead v. L.C. decision.
Moreover, we must ensure that people with disabilities receiving services in the community retain choice and control over their own lives by enforcing the CMS Home and Community Based Settings Rule. Finally, we must advance the rights of people with disabilities as well as those who provide personal assistant services.
- Advance Technology.
We must support creative and innovative new technologies through incentives and partnerships that will advance full inclusion and access for Americans with disabilities and Deaf Americans in schools, the workplace, and the marketplace on transportation, and all areas of full citizenship.
- Ensure Full Inclusion, Participation, Respect, and Dignity.
Americans with disabilities and Deaf Americans must be afforded the right to full inclusion, participation, respect, and dignity equal with all other Americans, including the same opportunities and liberties for affiliation; reproductive rights and sexuality; voter register and access to voting; civic engagement; accessible and efficient transportation; affordable accessible integrated housing; emergency preparedness and disaster response, recovery, and mitigation; and Universal Design and accessibility that remove all barriers to full citizenship.
We call on our social justice partners, federal, state, and local elected and appointed officials and allies who value our Constitutional rights and freedoms to take action!
Ask yourself today, and every day, ‘What can I do to share the American Dream with more people?’
Join the millions of Americans who respect the dignity and freedom of all who live in this great nation by taking the vow to act positively every day to provide all citizens the freedom and rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.
"We the people..."
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.