Women's History Month is almost drawing to a close, so I decided to write about common stereotypes women with disabilities face. Even in 2010, still I hear the same, negative and unhealthy stereotypes about women with disabilities, about our physical and intellectual worth, our body image and our viability as partners and mothers.
Regardless of which end of the range a woman with a disability is on, all women with disabilities are capable of living and thriving among our counterparts without disabilities.
Women with disabilities have careers and are productive students. Colleges and universities are more accessible these days, so itís simpler to obtain a full education. Women with disabilities are our in our classrooms as teachers, are professional counselors, writers, saleswomen, doctors, lawyers, and much more. Although itís true that women with disabilities are at the most risk for discrimination while seeking employment, many, like myself press on to meet each and every one of their goals.
Women with disabilties are wonderful mothers. Obstetric and gynecological specialists are better educated to support optimal maternity healthy with disabilities to allow a woman to give birth, and women with disabilities can adopt if a biological child is not in the cards. Women with disabilities do still have all the same body parts as any other women without disabilities and it depends on the individual what works and how. The key to being a productive woman with a disability and having a family is thinking outside the box and adapting. Disabilities donít have to interfere with parenting skills and the ability to love a child. A disability does not make a woman unfit to parent, whether singly or with a partner.
Women with disabilities are also vibrant and sexy, worthy of loving relationships and the potential to marry. We must continue to remind ourselves, regardless of what traditional stereotypes and the media tell us, that we are attractive, gifted and intelligent women. Men can and do fall in love with us and some of us get married, like myself. I've been married almost five years in April. It is not uncommon for a disability to play in second place in the relationship. A disability does not have to be the central part of a woman's being. While I do work a lot for disabilit civil rights and work in a motivational line of work for my peers with disabilities, I am a multi-layered individual, so there's more to my being and my repetoire of interests than things associated with my disability.
Living with a disability also does not have to mean dependence on family for everything. Independent living is not about living alone, but having the ability to know what you want and voice your preferences for how you want to live a full life, regardless of how many supports you need to have that life, such as direct support services and independent living communities. Many disabilities donít require physical assistance, such as mine. No two women with a disability are alike. We are as different as snowflakes with different needs, desires and interests.
I often wonder, in this our 21st centery, why we still underestimate a woman who has a disability? I think itís because people are fearful of things they find hard to understand and they react negatively rather than taking the time to learn and be enlightened Believing in a stereotype might be easier than learning a new and different lesson out women with disabilities. Our young girls in school still need to be taught they are just as smart, valuable and attractive as other girls in school, regardless of the disability. It's also important that parents instill in our growing young women that they are women with many choices about how we want to live and feel about our lives.
The next time you see a woman with a disability, what will you see? Will you see beyond the wobbly gait, wheelchair, scar or impaired speech? Will you see beyond the learning difficulties, missing limb and the like? Women with disabilities are our mothers, sisters, friends, lovers, bosses, co-workers, leaders and more. We are here. Get used to us. We want to be valued and seen as equal contenders in this human community just as any other woman. Give us the respect and support we deserve and crave to be the best we can be.