This post is the first in a series briefly looking at feminism and disability. It will focus on 2 key statistics that are frequently used by feminist campaigners:
that 1/4-1/6 women will experience abuse in her lifetime
that women earn 85p for men’s £1
What we find when we look at disabled women’s experiences (again, that’s 20% of women in the UK) is that these figures are gross underestimations of both the prevalence of violence against disabled women and the wage gap forced upon us.
“Research consistently shows that women with disabilities regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or class, are assaulted, raped, and abused at a rate two times greater than women without disabilities. (Sobsey, 1994; Cusitar, 1994)” – ref
“The risk of being physically assaulted for an adult with developmental disabilities is 4-10 times higher than for other adults. (Sobsey, 1994; Cusitar 1994.)” ref
“Some people with disabilities have other experiences which put them at more risk to be exploited, e.g., the culture of institutionalisation. Often, the disability service system does not offer those who need support the choice of where and with whom one lives, the freedom to come and go at will, or the opportunity to make simple decisions over one’s bodily functions, such as when to eat or bathe.” ref
Despite this, according to a Women’s Aid study of local domestic violence services (2008) – (the summary of which – first link – is only 8 pages long and well worth a read.)
only “38% of organisations offered some form of specific services to disabled women.”
“Only three [of 133] projects had disabled staff in post.
“27% of domestic violence organisations made attempts to reach disabled women through publicity, talks or local partnership working with organisations for disabled people.”
“Some projects had specially adapted accommodation or facilities and a few offered fully accessible housing, but many were not accessible at all.”
“There was a tendency for organisations to interpret disability access solely in terms of wheelchair access, whereas services need to be accessible to all women (including those with sensory impairments).”
“94% were aware of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and were making attempts to make properties accessible, although 76% stated that they were not yet compliant.”
In term of proportions, one in five female employees – and one in ten male employees – were paid less than £7 per hour.
(see graph below)
For both full-time and part-time work, the proportion of employees with a work-limiting disability who are low paid (earning less than £7 per hour) is higher than that for employees without a work-limiting disability, by around five percentage points for full-timers and ten percentage points for part-timers.
In the graph below, disabled women (excluding part-time employment) represent the group with the highest proportion of employees earning less than £7 an hour for full-time employment, at over 20%. There is a clearly demonstrated wage gap between men and women and disabled and non-disabled, with disabled women in full-time employment being twice as likely as non-disabled men in full-time employment to be earning less than £7 an hour.
Moreover, as demonstrated in the graph below, the lower the level of qualification, the greater the gap between disabled and non-disabled workers.
So disabled women are twice as likely to be abused in their lifetime and earn nearly 7p less per £1 than non-disabled women. And yet we never hear about these statistics. Why?