Issue 1, May 1992

Women With Disabilities Australia began in 1985 as a women’s group known as the ‘Women’s Network’, within Disabled Peoples’ International (Australia). The Network grew and evolved to form Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA). Copyright WWDA 1992.

In This Edition

Editor’s Corner by Joan Hume

Help Wanted

State Round Up

My View of the Network by Margaret Cooper

Symposium on the Environment and Disability

A Brief Overview of DAWN Canada’s Activities

A Share for Women

Women are Heard in Vancover

Summary of Response to Housing Issues for Women with Disabilities

Editor’s Corner by Joan Hume

Welcome to the first Issue of our Women’s Network Newsletter. We hope you will find our stories interesting and informative. We also hope you will use the Newsletter, not only to let us know what is happening in your State, but also what is happening to you as individuals.

The major credit for this production goes to Joan Lyons who has done all the worrying, the rounding up of contributors and most of the legwork. Thanks Joan. Thanks, too, to the efforts of Margaret Cooper and Rae Hurrell following their recent Canadian jaunt to the DPI International Conference. Thanks too, to Melissa Madsen who was also been in Canada at Independence ’92.

Have any of you seen or heard about a recent cover story in the People (or was it Picture?) magazine? Apparently it featured on its front cover a photo of female Siamese twins joined at the head who were looking for Mr Right … and Mr Left Should we be amused or outraged? We’d like to have reader feedback on this. Looking forward to your letters by the bagful.

The Office of the Status of Women keeps a register of women interested in being nominated for Government Boards and Statutory Authorities. Application forms for registration can be obtained from Women’s Network or Office of the Status of Women, Dept Prime Minister and Cabinet, 3-5 national Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

Help Wanted

Will you help develop a National Network for women with disalbilites? Here are some initial areas where help is needed badly.

State Co-ordinators
We need a contact in each State for women to talk to about the activities of the Network? Can you help? Talk to Joan Lyons, Project Officer on 06 2391911 or write to the Network.

Newsletter – contributions
Can you help with ideas, articles, or cartoons for the monthly Newsletter? Has anything happened which you think other disabled women would be interested in? Would you like to be a Guest Editor? Each Newsletter will have a Guest Editorial of about 300 words.

Newsletter – Content
What should be in the Newsletter? Articles on issues, operation of the network, Women’s Network experience in other countries, case studies of women with disabilities are some of the planned items. What else?

Aims and Objectives
Rae Hurrell is developing some draft aims and objectives for the Network- Contact her after hours on 07 349 4777 with your ideas if you want to contribute. When a draft is completed it will be Published in the Newsletter for your comments.

Special Groups
From the outset the needs of women who fall into special groups such as Aboriginal, non-English speaking, isolated and home bound women, gay women, young and older women will be catered for. As a first move we are looking for women to act as contact points. To ensure that their views are incorporated in all planning and policy activities.

State Round-Up

In each Newsletter State activities will be featured. In this Issue it is South Australia.

A Note From Melissa Madsen
Just a short note to letyou know that women with a disability including myself have been invited to a luncheon with the Women’s Adviser to the Premier here in SA on May 23. Following the appointment of a new Women’s Adviser in January, Jayne Taylor, this office is conducting a review of their services to women, and apparently have identified women with a disability as being an area of particular concern. This is a very positive step, as these women often feel that their concerns fall between the Office of Disability Adviser to the Premier and Women’s Adviser to the Premier. I will keep you posted of further developments!

My View of the Network by Margaret Cooper

‘You’re not going to find it easy getting on with the other DPI(A) women, they’re serious, don’t say much, don’t believe in women’s lib, and are definitely not fun people’, said an apparently experienced male member to me in 1964 when I joined DPI(A).

His mixed message took me back to the days when I kept my good school marks hidden from boyfriends.

During my career I have worked with frightened women, women who felt powerless against emotonal and physical attacks and the anger I felt at the terrible lives led by these women, led me into talking with feminists who were trying to change society to free women, and men, to live equally. But somehow I wasn’t seen by this DPI (A) male, a close friend, as a feminist. My questions to myself were ‘Am I still covering up my skills, knowledge, and experiences so I can be part of the DPI(A) boys’team? Aren’t women’s issues really people issues?

With great trepidation I approached these aweful women of DPI(A), one by one, and found each to be unique, with amazing humour, insightful and very caring of all people around them. The informal networking of DPI(A) women helped me meet many fantastic people. Women with disabilities living in poverty while raising happy children, women who have been institutionally abused still able to look at the needs of carers, women who have meekly but persistency nibbled away at transport agencies untl accessible transport has been developed, women coping somehow with increasing disabilities while giving most of their energies to unpaid disability activism, and articulate and academic women whose writings or speeches don’t seem to be widely recognised yet within the disability movement.

Being with the growing strength of women with disabilities in the development of the National Women’s Network is tremendously important to me for four reasons:

  • Much of what I say at the National Women’s Consultative Council is on behalf of women with disabilities and I need the WNN to keep track of what I’m saying and advise me of issues that need to be raised.
  • As I gain knowledge about the status of women I want to be able to share it with other women, so other women with disabilities can take over where I leave off.
  • The Network may decide to leave DPI(A) at some future time. But before it does I hope the Network leaves an indelible mark on DPI(A) so women can get a go on equal terms with the guys.
  • I want to keep making new friends.

Symposium on the Environment and Disability – June 10 – 11

Disabled Peoples lnternational and Centro de Vide Independente are organising the first symposium on the Environment and Disability, under the auspices of the Global Forum, in Rio de JoLnereo, June 10 – 11, 1992.

The ’92 Global Forum is a series of simultaneous events that provide the opportunity for all sectors of society to express their independent views. 340 different events will combine to make up the forum. The views expressed in these events will influence the action plan that will emerge from the United nations Conference on Environment & Development (UNCED), which is taking place at the same time as Global Forum.

UNCED will formalise the research and brainstorming that has been taking place over the past few years and create an action plan that will influence the path of development in the years ahead. In order for this process to continue and for development to have the best chance of being environmentally sound, all sectors of the world society must be heard.

Senator Eita Yashiro, Chairperson of DPi Asia Pacific Regional Council has designated Rae Hurrell to be the regional representative at this symposium on Environment and Disability. Rae has been asked to present a paper on Urbanisation/Industrialisation and their Effects on Disabled People.

Congratulatons Rae, we look forward to hearing about it.

A Brief Overview of DAWN Canada’s Activities – by Melissa Madsen

Joan Lyons, project officer for the Women’s Network, asked me to prepare a brief account of what I saw of DAWN Canada’s activities while attending the conference Independence 92 in Vancover.

Since this was my first conference, and my attendance was as a self-funded delegate, I regarded it as a learning experience. I was trying essentially to get the feel of being a delegate. As such I can lay no claim to having an exhaustive kncrmedge of DAWN Canada’s activities.

On TuesdayApril 21, DAWN Canada held a day long meeting which also looked at the formation of a World Coalition of Women with Disabilities. Unfortunately, this coincided with a DPI Women’s Committee meeting inevitably resulting in those women associated with DPI having to choose between the two.

At the conclusion of this meeting, a documentary produced by the National Film Board of Canada was presented. This film considered the topic of women with disabilities and their sexuality by interviewing four women with varying disabilities. It was particularly encouraging as unlike many materials produced on disability and sexuality including one session at the conference itself, did not assume a heterosexual norm. Three of those women were present at the screening.

I was later approached by a representative of the National Film Board of Canada who told me that a film dealing with reproductive technology and women with a disability was also being produced, again in conjunction with DAWN Canada.

When the Conference proper began, it was clear that by their representation at concurrent sessions and by their stand in the Exposition, that DAWN Canada exists as a major disability group.

On its stand, DAWN Canada was giving away copies of a guide entitled Meeting Our Needs which documents instances of abuse – physical, emotional and sexual – against women with a disability, and goes on to describe how transition centres (rape crisis centres, women’s shelters) can make their premises accessible to women with disabilities.

Following an especially satisfying conference session dealing with violence against people with a disability, I was given a copy of research done by Liz Stimpson of DAWN Toronto, which looks at sexual assault againstwomen with a disability and how they are disadvantaged by the legal, political and belief systems that operate in Canada.

The issue of violence against women with a disability has impressed me greatly. While of course it would be dangerous to extrapolate directly from the Canadian situation, it must be recognised that similar factors must be operating in Australia with similar results. This is an issue that I will be pursing through the Radical Disabled Women’s Union here in Adelaide, and which I believe the DPI women’s Network must also address.

More generally, I believe that many Australian women’s groups may be hesitant about working from such an unashamed feminist basis. Yet DAWN Canada proves that such an ideological basis is, in Canada at least no impediment to becoming a successful lobby and action group. This may in fact be the force behind their production of practical and informative resource materials.

Finally, I feel that ftwould be useful for the Women’s Network to consider DAWN Cantida’s example as at least a starting point when we formulate the shape that our Network will take.

A Share for Women – by Pamela Rosenberg

When compiling responses to inquiries, discussion papers and reports the issue of gender should not be overlooked. We all know that people with disabilities face disadvantages in relation to participation and equity in society but women with disabilities often face a double disadvantage because they must work around the same gender inequalities faced by many women who do not have disabilities. DPI(A) recently prepared a response to the Public Service Commission’s Equal Employment Opportunity: A Strategic Plan for the Australian Public Service for the 1990’s. It was pointed out that statistics relating to employment of people with disabilities reveal that the labour force participation rate for females aged 15 to 64 is 36.9% compared to 54.5% for males. (ABS 1 990 b, cat no. 412.0 p5).

It was recommended that the Public Service Commission implement affirmative action for women with disabilities as part of affirmative action for people with disabilities to ensure that women gain 50% participation not only in recruitment but also in career progression.

Our overall recommendations focused on across-the board employment graduate recruitment and career progression. In addressing career progression we suggested that a strategy be developed to include training, use of mentors and networking. We also pointed out that adjustment in the workplace normally focuses on provision of aids and equipment we stressed the importance of adjustment in the workplace also including the provision of information inappropriate formats. In addition it was recommended that a training module on disability issues be included in training packages, in particular for management training.

The response was prepared with the assistance of members of DPI (ACT). If you would like to provide additional input to the issue contact the national office. Your views can be passed on as there will be continued liaison between the EEO Unit of the Public Service Commission and DPI(A).

Women are Heard in Vancover – by Rae Hurrell

During the-DPi World Councilmeetng held in, Zimbabwe in August 1991 members of the Women’s Committee who attended this meeting took time to meet and discuss ways whereby the Committee could better serve disabled women and structure it in a manner that it can carry out its mandate more effectively. At present the Committee comprises Jurearatana Pongpaew, Asia Pacific Region Zohra Rajah, African Region Eileen Giron Batres, Latin American Region, Nathalie Giraudel Rolle, North America and Caribbean Region Anneli Joneken, European Region Anneli is the Chairperson of this Committee.

At the lndependence’92 Conference held in Vancover, Canada there were approximately 3,000 people with disability from over 90 countries of the world attending. It was pleasing to see a large number of women present. It was particularly pleasing to see the number of woman from developing countries present. During the Conference the Women’s Committee held a meeting and a number of women from various regions were asked to form Regional Committees. Anne Hawker from New Zealand and I were invited to join Juree on the Asia Pacific Committee. We were also invited to be members of a Committee to draw up recommendations to be presented from the Women’s Committee to the DPI World Council at the end of the Independence’92 Conference. In total we presented 19 recommendations to the council, all of which were accepted. The most significant of these was the establishment of a position for an officer to work on the development of women’s issues. She will be employed at DPI World Headquarters in Winnipeg, Canada. It was very interesting to note that the biggest objections to this concept at the World Council meeting came not from the male members, but from some of the female members. However it was passed and now arrangements are being made to secure the necessary funds. Many of the recommendations of the disabled Women’s Seminar, organised by the DPI Women’s Committee and the United Nations Office held in Vienna in August 1990 were also accepted by the World Council Meeting. A full write-up of these recommendations will be published in the next addition of Women’s Network Newsletter.

Summary of Response to Housing Issues for Women with Disabilities by Margaret Cooper

Margaret is the representative for women with disabilifies on the National Women’s Consultative Council sponsored by the Commonwealth Government. This Committee is responsible for advising the Government on its National Agenda for Women which outlines its policy to be achieved by the year 2000. The National Housing Strategy forms part of the National Agenda.

Margaret produced her paper after a successful teleconference with Network members and will be also be seeking direction from the Network on a range of issues being dealt with by this Council. To this end summaries of her papers will be included in the Newsletter from time to time to provide an avenue for feedback from as wide a range of women as possible. The full paper will also be available on request to anyone wishing to give the issue more detailed examination.

Please phone 06 239 1911 or write to the Women’s Network at P.O. Box 713, Fyshwick ACT 2609 and a copy will be sent to you immediately.

Phone Margaret on 03 285 2355 (W) or 03 822 5506 (HO) to give your point of view on her paper. Margarets paper is a response to issues arising from the National Housing Strategy and to Discussion Papers The Housing Needs of People With Disabilities, by J. Sach, and The Housing Needs of Women and Children by B.A. Cass.

Margaret argues that the National Agenda for Women should live up to its aims in relation to women with disabilities in the context of broader economic and social justice goals. Furthermore she asserts that the National Housing Strategy must include strategies which will specifically offset the disadvantages which confront women with disabilities when seeking housing in the general community.

Her paper expresses the view that housing for women with disabilities is crucial to their integration into the community, and points out that such women are especially disadvantaged financially. She supports therefore the main thrust of the Cass paper.

Margaret details the needs of women with disabilities for affordable housing by drawing attention to the need to:

take account of the cost of disability in:

  • access to low cost loans, access to low deposit loans, capital indexed loans, and access to low cost loans for housing modification

protect disabled partners by:

  • reducing the costs of legal and banking mechanisms to enable woman to carry on a dual named housing loan if, and when, her partner departs the relationship
  • having both partners sign a public rental contract so the woman can retain the property if the violent partner has to be removed.

Margaret supports:

  • a change to the criteria of credit worthiness suggested by Cass which will cover women with disabilities who are unpaid workers at home
  • considering waiving a deposit in a shared housing ownership in some cases, and
  • expansion of income security so that rental or other accommodation costs become a lesser proportion of expenditure
  • more flexibility in relocation of women in public housing to enable quick transfer in case of domestic violence
  • accessible crisis accommodation
  • staged options for young women and also for women leaving institutions. Furthermore,
  • housing should be close to available employment or training centres, community services and accessible public transport and because many women with disabilities have a biological reaction to the environment housing should be in a healthy environment.

In the paper Margaret points out that the majority of women with disabilities suffer stress: housing stress, because most are paying in excess of 30% of their income on housing and financial stress, because most are low income earners, which needs to be costed and counted in any housing programme.

In spite of the high cost of institutionalisation, at least 87.5% of Social Security Payments, there is no affirmative action plan for women with disabilities within the Federal Governments accommodation and accommodation support services.

Margaret draws attention to the following facts.

  • Less women with disabilities are employed than males and they are not equally represented in sheltered workshops.
  • The cost of disability, although already well documented, is subject to yet another government Review. Meanwhile women with disabilities have to survive on a budget which does not take account of the costs of disabilities.
  • Rising housing costs disadvantage the single income household and a high proportion of disabled women are in this category.

Margaret criticises Sach’s recommendations because he forsakes the social justice and equity line to try a rapprochement with economic rationalism, thereby privatising the issue of resource location. However, she supports a national disability housing programme, but within mainstream housing strategies.

Margaret expresses concern at some aspects of Deinstutionalisation.

She supports:

  • the separation of the management of housing stock from investment the consolidation of housing in one department and the contracting out of housing or accommodation support services
  • a more diversified housing market which widens choices, providing that the Cass’ strategies to assist women are incorporated into programmes.

She argues that accommodation support should be addressed in the context of the cost of disabilities. Margaret argues strongly against pushing back the cost of support of disabled children on to families, particularly those headed by a female sole parent already faced with high costs.

And finally she supports the development of a national database on disability housing and accommodation.