Issue 14, Summer 1998

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with all types of disabilities in Australia. It is a not-for-profit organisation constituted and driven by women with disabilities. It is the only organisation of its kind in Australia and one of only a very small number internationally. WWDA is inclusive and does not discriminate against any disability. WWDA is unique, in that it operates as a national disability organisation; a national women’s organisation; and a national human rights organisation.

In This Edition

Message from the Chair

Letters to the Editor

Working together at Home and Abroad

Leadership for Women With Disabilities

WWDA Violence Projects

State Reports

Defining Disability

Data Reference Group

CEDAW Report

Book Review and New Publications

Coming Events

A Message from the New Chairperson of WWDA – Vicki Toovey

Welcome to the New Year. I look forward to another year of continuing achievement and building of the profile of WWDA. It is great to follow Margaret as Chair of WWDA – there is much I have learned from her in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I wish her luck with her studies and know that we will see her from time to time and especially hear about her work through presentations and papers.

Margaret has been a great role model in many ways but in particular I endorse her approach to the idea of mentoring and the way this supports other women with disabilities to become involved. It enables increased participation and confidence for a greater number of women.

With the support of our staff in the office in Canberra, a strong National Executive Committee representing the States, and a widening membership, I believe we should be able to represent the issues for women with disabilities in the disability arena as well as having greater impact on the women s movement.

Our work in the area of violence has substantially raised our profile and shown our ability to work with other organisations at a range of levels. It is important for us to build on this and to seek new areas such as improving our access to information technology.

I look forward to working with Fiona and Joyce in their roles as Deputy chairs and to my greater involvement with WWDA.

Vicki Toovey

Letters to the Editor

I would like to thank you for forwarding me a copy of the latest issue of WWDA News. It is most informative and made me aware of some of the other issues involved for women with disabilities. The articles are obviously written from the heart and with enormous sincerity. The fact that it was non-political and nonjudgmental was refreshing, and not some-thing seen very often. May I congratulate you and your team on the excellent production and editorial content. Since reading it I have become far more aware and keen to assist if you should feel there is an area it would be appropriate for me to do so. I wish you and your readers further success wherever the challenges take you.

Your sincerely
Joanna Gash, MP Federal Member for Gilmore.

Working Together………..At Home and Abroad

Women with disabilities face struggles in every country of the world. Some cultures more than others. Faced with adversity some fight harder to maintain both the political and social struggle for equality and recognition.

In 1997, an International Leadership Forum was held in Washington USA. Just prior to this, a leadership Training Institiute for Women With Disabilities was held in Eugene Oregon. Gatherings like the International Leadership Forum and the Leadership Institute are constant reminders of how much other cultures have to offer. The audaciousness and sheer determination of some and the innovativeness of others.

Through technology, now more than ever, there is the opportunity to share these positive attributes. Organisations can offer suggestions, support and synergy across the globe. As the women who attend the conference learned, leadership isn’t about one person at the helm of the ship telling everyone else what to do. Leadership needs to be shared, with a broad range of voices heard. A mutual strength may be drawn by working together on a personal, regional and international level.

How to Be an Effective Leader

You can still hear the excitement and high ebbing in Fiona Strahan’s voice as she discusses~her experiences in America. Before joining Vicki Toovey and Glenda Lee at the Leadership Forum, Fiona participated in the Leadership Institute in Oregon. The 32 women from 28 countries focused on leadership within the disabilities movement and broader society, challenging the women on a personal, physical and political level.

Women with disabilities face obstacles to leadership when competing within the current structures. “What it essentially comes down to is do you participate in a male dominated hierarchy or set up your own?” Fiona said. Each woman at the Conference developed her own projects and was encouraged to follow it through.

When aid and resources are often not directed at women with disabilities, generating the income to develop a project becomes increasingly difficult. While one world body, the Grameen Bank based in Bangladesh, lends women with disabilities money to develop a history of credit, few other agencies do. The conference tried to set up an international money lending body, the International Revolving Loan fund. Still in its infancy, the fund will work on the principle of sharing resources worldwide to assist those in need.

Fiona decided to undertake a project to formulate recommendations on how to effectively deal with violence against women with disabilities. The recommendations are to the World Blind Union. She says while resources are scarce, there is a necessity to utilise what already exists. “I’m planning on working with Melbourne University to help with the research to back my recommendations, there’s no way you can manage to do everything,” said Fiona.

The women learned about leadership within the disability movement as well as the wider community. As a result of complacency and reliance, new leaders with fresh ideas find it difficult to emerge. It is necessary to enable other women to participate and share their views and experiences, rather than have the same person repeatedly speaking on behalf of a movement. There are simple and practical measures to counter this insular leadership style. Training and confidence building is necessary, inviting interested women to help or share in the management while providing guidance and support.

As an empowering team and leadership exercise, the women were taken to the Oregon coast to contest physical limits. Setting up tents, confronting the raging ocean, white water rafting and climbing rope ladders all challenged the women’s abilities to participate. Culturally, socially and physically the women were challenged to come to grips with their abilities.

What did Fiona get most out of the Institute? She said we need to revise the simple things. “We need to learn to look after ourselves, not as an individual, but to look after each other. We need to challenge and break the assumptions, to be audacious, to say ‘this is what we want’. We can’t just accept limitations we assume are there.”

International Leadership Forum for Women With Disabilities – Washington 1997

Whirlwind Women who make their own wheelchairs, disabled women members of Parliament, freedom fighters and casualties of war were some of the amazing and inspiring discoveries that came out of the International Forum for Women with Disabilities. Vicki Toovey says she felt it was a real privilege to be part of Ws world wide gathering of women, bringing back with her an understanding of the different national approaches to supporting leadership and some positive ideas for our part in the international movement.

“One of my first thoughts was that it was a logistical nightmare. Organising accommodation, food, care and social events for over 600 women with disabilities from all over the world is an enormous task,” she said. The Forum ran for six days, consisting of a morning lecture with workshops in the afternoons. Vicki called these workshops ‘talking sessions’ and said they were the biggest disappointment as they consisted of groups of 100 people with absolutely no opportunity for debate or personal contact with other women.

Despite the feeling of being talked at, some of the workshops still had an enormous impact. “The Whirlwind Women are a group of women in Kenya and Uganda who make their own wheelchairs. These women usually get their wheelchairs from foreign aid, discarded from the first world. They use their skills to make wheelchairs especially designed for their own environment,” Vicki said.

One of the things Vicki found significant was the extent to which women with disabilities have been marginalised, both in society as a whole and in their own groups such as disabled people generally and the Women’s Movement. Women have to take positive action to improve their recognition and value in society, through supporting women with disabilities in leadership roles and encouraging others to do the same.

“Some of the women in leadership positions from other countries were inspirational. There were enormous differences, some had such a strong foundation at the grass roots, for example, Africa has 46 groups in the one country, forming a strong network,” Vicki said. In South Africa, the existence of a disabled Minister in their Parliament gives successful women with disabilities exposure, constantly challenging stereotypes.

The number of women who acquired their disabilities through war was also quite astounding to Vicki, given the absence of this cause in Australia. Sixty per cent of disabled women world wide have acquired their disabilities through war and it poses a different but positive slant. These were women who had fought for their lives or for a cause and the strength of their political views was described as empowering.

“The theme of technology was highlighted for me personally,” Vicki said. Women’s Health Statewide, where Vicki works in South Australia, set up an Intemet homepage two years ago. “There is so much opportunity with access to information and communication. Because the Internet and e-mail are international networks, it helps give a sense of the intemational movement. My e-mail address was the only contact I gave out the whole time I was away,” she said.

Vicki expressed surprise at the lack of representation of women with intellectual disabilities. While in Australia, they are acknowledged and have some voice, internationally it seems they may have less presence, intellectual disability being mentioned only once throughout the forum.

Women with disabilities have experienced similar marginalisation in the women’s movement as a whole, the movement being slow to accept the positive and important things women with disabilities have to offer. The focus at this Forum was not so much on what the women’s movement has to offer people with disabilities, but what women with disabilities can bring to the women’s movement. “It’s about getting the women s movement to recognise us as whole women, and not being seen as a burden,” Vicki said.

Taking an even bigger focus, Vicki said they need also to act broadly in society. Looking at issues on the world stage, such as health, education and human rights, women with disabilities should be having valuable input and constantly challenging the predominant stereotypes.

While the conference did not fulfill all her expectations, Vicki certainly gained a lot. The main ideas were that women with disabilities are part of a world wide movement and possess enormous strength in that fact. Australian women need to question their responsibilities at an international level and recognise the need to look at their broader political responsibilities. The Forum also emphasised an active approach to increasing the profile and understanding of women with disabilities. Better education and positive role models such as disabled women in Parliament and high profile positions will go a long way to empowering women with disabilities world wide.

The Leadership Forum by Glenda Lee

Glenda Lee writes on the content of the Forum – The Speakers, Discussions and Outcomes.

Aspects of Leadership
Many assertive and inspirational women spoke on this day about their experience in becoming and being a leader. The speakers and Workshop leaders included:

  • Maria Rantho – Member of the South African Parliament;
  • Judith Heumann – Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitation USA;
  • Susan Daniels – Associate Commissioner for Disability of the US Social Security Administration, and
  • Venus Ilagan – Director National Rehabilitaion Project for children in the Phillipines.

Another focus was that disability rights and women’s rights are human rights and they should not be allowed to be made separate.

Education and Development Assistance
Richard Riley, Secreatry US Department of Education spoke about the recently re-authorised (first authorised 22 years ago) Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which ensures free and appropriate educational services to all children and youth with disabilities. Judith Heumann spoke about her own experience of education as a student and her fight to become a teacher in the face of disability discrimination.

The importance of role models and peer mentoring for girls with disabilities was heavily emphasised during this day. Girls with severe disabilites and girls in special schools were seen as at the greatest risk of disempowerement and disadvantage. Children with disabilities must not have their self-esteem and self-worth taken away from them. Children without disabilities must be educated about disability very early to ensure that negative attitudes and false ideas about disability are averted. Women with disabilites must be employed at high levels in government positions and in policy making areas. Close links need to be forged between the mainstream women’s movement and the women with disabilites movement. This can best be done by one to one contact.

Health and Family Issues
The main areas spoken about were:

  • the lack of access to mainstream women’s health services and information;
  • reproductive issues (especially in relation to ethical and genetic issues regarding childbearing); and
  • the lack of knowledge and understanding of disability by the medical profession, especially doctors.

There was a strong voice against abortion purely on the basis of possible disability of the foetus. The pressure or assumption that a woman would or should abort if genetic testing showed possible disability was seen as disability discrimination. Concern was also voiced about the perceived ‘thin edge of the wedge’ of voluntary euthanasia. I was told by another woman that the ‘Ask the Doctor’ sessions in the evenings often found the doctors floundering and unable to answer questions put to them.

Employment Strategies
The Deputy Assistant Director, US Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Shirley Wilcher, spoke extensively on Affirmative Action.

Susan Daniels said that 70% of people with disability are unemployed in the United States. In 1987 there were 5 million people with disability out of work. Ten years later the figure has risen to 10 million! She asked why this is the case considering all the advances in technology, education, civil rights, etc. Susan said that civil rights are not enough. Anti Disability Discrimination Law is the key to unlock the door but then the effort is needed to push the door open.

Communication and Technology
This day focused on the representation of people with disabilities in the media and society’s perceptions of people with disabilities.

Rina Gill, a UNICEF representative from Bangladesh, spoke of her work to help UNICEF improve their audio-visual and print communications about women and children with disabilities. Her research showed that it is best to show images of people (including children) with disabilities talking for themselves and informing others about the consequences of not immunising than showing non-disabled people talking about the sorry spectacle of the disabled child and tut tutting about the lack of immunisation.

Images of people need to be positive, neither heroic and brave nor pathetic and helpless. People with disabilities must be included in all media including tourism promotion.

Much of the Forum was spent in celebration of women with disabilities. Celebration of our particular talents and abilities. The Forum was an excellent opportunity for women with disabilities from different political and economic cultures to exchange information and ideas. We discovered that our experience as women with disabilities are common to us all. We agreed that we are definetly doubly disadvantaged and must share knowledge and skills with each other and women without disabilities toeradicate that disadvantage. There was a strong and consistent voice throughout the Forum that role modelling and peer mentoring is essential for the growth of women with disabilities and especially girls with disabilities. It was agreed that people with disabilities must be the ones to eduacate about disability. Finally, that people with disability are a normal part of society and must be accepted, included, appreciated and allowed to contribute fully so that society is whole.

International Leadership Forum for Women With Disabilities Joint Statement

We the 614 women from 82 countries around and girls especially suffer the illnesses of the world at the International Leadership poverty in wars’ aftermath. Decision makers in Forum for Women with Disabilities in countries affected by wars and conflict must Washington on June 15-20, 1997, are deeply encouraged by the emerging strength in the empowerment of women and girls with disabilities. We hereby want to send signals to all our sisters and brothers in the disabilities and women’s rights movements. This important process is meant to include the possibilities of growth of each and every individual woman and girl with disabilities worldwide. Consequently, we need partnerships with women and men in all walks of life. Our issues are among the top priority concerns of all human development.

We believe that several concrete actions and considerations must occur regarding United Nations conventions and policies. Of specific importance are:

  • The Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • The Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and the promises within the Platforms for Action from the United Nations conferences and summit meetings. Especially we note that the positive effects of the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women are still vigorously ongoing. We want the Beijing Platform for Action to be fully realised. We also demand that our States ratify the conventions, removing any reservations and other barriers to implementation.

Women in solidarity must unite and call for the stopping of wars and civil conflicts. Women and girls especially suffer the illnesses of poverty in wars’ aftermath. Decision makers in countries affected by wars and conflict must take full responsibility to rehabilitate girls and women.

We State the following:

Human Rights and Violence

We demand that the message of disabled women and girls be heard clearly in all debates and policies conceming genetic engineering, bioethics, prosthetic design and human engineering such as cochlear implants, abortion on grounds of disability, assisted suicide, euthanasia and all eugenic practices.

Such issues vitally concem disabled women and men, and have the potential to violate our fundamental and universal rights. We demand that all violations stop. Further, we demand that women with disabilities participate in all levels of debate and policy development regarding reproductive research policies and programs.

We urgently raise our concem to our govemments about the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNSCO) draft of a Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights to be finalised in July this year. We question the wisdom of the draft text in respect to the human rights of disabled persons. We recommend that the governments discuss the draft text with the organisations of and for disabled persons in their countries.

We urge that international and national governmental and non-governmental bodies recognise the high rate of violence against disabled women and girls as a critical health and human rights issue in policy and legislation. Legal enforcement of assault and sexual abuse laws should be strengthened, including severe punishment of offenders and support for victims through the justice system.

We cannot accept that family members, paid and volunteer care givers, institutional staff, police, and even friends, are humiliating, assaulting, raping, exploiting, neglecting, forcibly isolating, withholding assistance, medical care or supports, abandoning, disposing of, putting out to beg, selling and even killing, women and girls with disabilities at alarming rates. Disabled children of battered mothers are particularly vulnerable to abuse. We urge that effective support be developed for victims and family members.

We request that the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women address violence against women and girls with disabilities as a pressing issue, in full cooperation with women with disabilities and their organisations. We request that disability organisations include the issue of violence among their priority concerns. We request the world’s women’s movement acknowledge the vicious insults visited upon women and girls with disabilities the world over, and take steps to improve solidarity among all women.

We demand immediate action to build access to information and services to escape, heal and survive abuse, all steps to prevent future cycles of violence.

We protest in solidarity with disabled women in all countries where:

  • laws currently allow legal abortion only for the protection of the mother’s health
  • in the case of pressing economic circumstances, and
  • in cases where the fetus is disabled.

We demand that decision makers acknowledge the right of disabled women to choose for themselves. We also refer to the text in the Beijing Platform for Action.


Poverty and disability among women and girls are closely linked. We demand effective access to education and employment as the primary tools for fighting poverty. We urge that education be used as the primary key for girls and women to be able to lead integrated and participatory lives in their communities.

We demand that decision makers include the education and skills development of girls and women with disabilities as an integral part of the education system. Language and communication skills development are especially important in those countries where the use of several languages is practiced.

Local culture should be allowed to provide opportunities for girls and women to be recognised as full participants in meaningful social and economic roles.

We urge that both parents and teachers of girl children with disabilities receive further training in order that the quality of overall education be raised. We also urge that teacher training curricula include a disability component.

We demand that education provide effective opportunities for girls and women with disabilities to become empowered. The need is for groups to provide effective role models so that girls and women can take up leadership roles, increasing their self reliance.

We urge the development of mentoring programs for girls and young women with disabilities and demand the inclusion of positive images of women and girls with disabilities in the media.


We demand that existing economic inequalities between women and men be equalised, and that the economic contribution to the society by women with disabilities be recognised. Women with disabilities should be afforded full support to pursue their ambitions and skills development regarding the use of their capabilities to support themselves and their families.

We urge that women with disabilities be encouraged to establish micro enterprises, for example, in the development of marketing devices, sales representatives, catalogues, etc, to bring the goods/products of other disabled women to market. Banks should recognise the multiple value of giving loans to women’s business enterprises. Governments must recognise the efforts of women engaged in micro enterprise development with tax credits and other appropriate benefits. We demand that world commercial communication groups present in their programming positive examples of women with disabilities in their businesses.

Health Care

Because of the discrimination and ignorance of medical professionals and extreme poverty, women with disabilities do not have the same access and opportunities for health care as their able bodied counterparts. The power of health care professionals, particularly in the mental health and developmental disabilities arenas will not be given up easily. Disabled women are dying prematurely as a result of not geffing the care we need. Disabled women do not receive adequate personal assistance, assistive technology and supports because of a lack of funds.

Therefore we demand that:

  • Women take power and control over their own health care, including having the choice of what medical tests and treatments they wish to have. Parents of disabled girls receive full information on the outcomes of medical procedures so they can give informed consent.
  • National Health policies and bureaucracies be accountable for improving the access, availability and affordability of high quality, culturally appropriate health care for disabled women and girls.
  • Schools for health professionals offer affirmative action to students with disabilities and include adequate training on the needs of women and girls with disabilities, including community based rehabilitation and reproductive education.
  • Adaptive equipment, appropriate to local conditions, be developed. Studies be launched to evaluate the outcomes of medical procedures from the point of view of people with disabilities. Multidisciplinary health and medical care and research be done to provide a more holistic picture of gender specific impairments and diseases.
  • Disabled women be trained to be the leaders in research on disabled women’s health care needs.
  • In war torn areas quality field based health services be provided for disabled women and girls.
  • All countries ensure that rehabilitation services are available to disabled girls and women without sexual bias.


Disabled women intemalise the mythology of asexuality. Disabled women have internalised the notion that our bodies are not worthy to be loved. Many women and girls are extremely lonely and touch deprived. We crave a disability sexual culture focused on our entitlement to pleasure and love, understanding the advantages of possessing bodies and functions different when compared to women’s majority culture.

We urge that:

  • Women have a safe and private place to discuss with each other their sexual lives, desires, hopes and questions.
  • Disabled women and girls receive accurate information about sexuality, including training to publicise the good word that all disabled women are sexual and sexy and can give and receive love making in a variety of ways.
  • Disabled women be educated to work in women’s health services, including training as sex educators and leaders in research on disabled women’s sexuality.

Communication and Technology and Accessibility

We demand an end to the systematic denial of disabled women to appropriate information and mainstream lines of communication.

We demand that there be guidelines:

  • to ensure that disabled children and adults of both sexes are integrated into mass media programmings, including advertising;
  • these portrayals must be positive, sensitive and life enhancing. This includes public education campaigns designed to prevent disability, such as immunisation.

We demand that all technical methods of communication are designed for universal use by disabled and non-disabled persons. We urge that the communications and information needs of disabled women who are poor and have not received an education are given higher priority.

UN Conventions

We further believe that the United Nations and our countries should intensify efforts to implement all existing conventions concerning disabled women and girls. Such actions should be effectively over seen by the United Nations bodies responsible for monitoring of these instruments, together with the non-governmental (NGOs) organisations concerned. Special cooperation should be established between the units responsible for disability, gender, human rights and NGO issues. Such action should be applied at the local, national, regional and international levels.

We urge the United Nations and other relevant bodies to take immediate action regarding:

  • informing about the existing conventions using easy to read language, accessible formats and local languages
  • initiate the buildings on new knowledge with respect to women and girls with disabilities using surveys, research and case studies
  • encourage the development of dialogue with decision-makers at all levels
  • facilitate the co-sponsorship with NGOs of seminars dedicated to the training of women and girls with disabilities about methods to implement policy and to take up decision making positions.


We hereby reaffirm the establishment of a global sister network among women and girls with disabilities. We affirm our membership in WILD Women’s International Linkage on Disabilities.

Women With Disabilities and Violence – WWDA Projects

WWDA members have told us that violence is a major issue to them. As a result, WWDA has undertaken 2 significant projects about access to services for women with disabilities who experience violence. These projects were:

  • to develop a Model Disability Discrimination Act Action Plan Process; and
  • to develop a Disability Action Plan with a women’s refuge.

Both these projects were developed to help womenis refuges around Australia eliminate discrimination by developing and implementing Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) Action Plans. Action Plans are a way that organisations and institutions plan to meet the requirements of the DDA, and stop discrimination over a period of time. The projects also met recommendations stemming from the National Domestic Violence Forum which was held in September 1996. Recommendation 25 from this Forum said: ‘Domestic violence services work with Women with Disabilities Australia to develop and implement Action Plans based on the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.’

The published reports from the two projects were launched by Pru Goward (Executive Director, Commonwealth Offlce of the Status of Women) at the Women’s Emergency Services Network National Conference held in Sydney, December 1997.

More Than Just A Ramp – A Guide for Women’s Refuges to Develop Disability Discrimination Act Action Plans – Prepared for WWDA by Fiona Strahan.

This report begins by setting the context for the study. It talks about: gender and disability – how they relate, what is different about being a woman with a disability, and the discrimination that women with disabilities face. It also talks about women with disabilities and violence – why women with disabilities face so much violence, and why people donit believe them when they talk about violence.

The report then discusses the barriers women with disabilities face when accessing domestic violence services. Some of these include: communication; information; attitudes; the physical environment; accessing a service; and the skills of workers.

The report provides information on the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) including a discussion on discriminatior . It explains what Action Plans are, including the reasons why a service should develop an Action Plan. The report details step by step how to develop an Action Plan. The areas covered include:

  • Developing a good working group;
  • Familiarising yourself with the barriers in your service;
  • Consulting and involving women with disabilities;
  • Educating your organisation about the Disability Discrimination Act;
  • Ensuring you are well supported;
  • Developing strategies;
  • Resourcing the Action Plan;
  • Negotiating with relevant Departments;
  • Determining responsibility;
  • Evaluating.

Information on a wide range of services is provided in the Report, including contact information for organisations that provide education, training and resources about the Disability Discrimination Act.

Woorarra Women’s Refuge Disability Action Plan – Prepared by Fiona Strahan for Women With Disabilities Australia and Woorarra Women’s Refuge.

This report details a project undertaken by Women With Disabilities Australia and Woorara Womenis Refuge in Victoria to develop a Disability Action Plan for the Woorara Refuge. The report sets the context for the study – providing information about the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) including what you have to do to comply with the DDA. The Project Methodology is outlined, including findings from consultations conducted with women with disabilities as part of the project.

The report includes the Action Plan developed with Woorara Womenis refuge as part of the project. The Action Plan contains detailed information about how the refuge will eliminate discrimination against women with disabilities. Some of the areas that will change are: physical access to the building (a challenge, since the refuge is on the side of a cliff! – but the architect came up with some very innovative ideas, proving that any refuge can improve access); information given to residents at the refuge when they arrive – (what information and how it is given to them); training for staff; obtaining appropriate equipment (via an equipment pool).

These reports were an exiting project for WWDA and a big step forward in the development of our organisation. One of the best things about them was the fact that women with disabilities were involved all the way through and were in charge of the project. The Steering Committee was made up of women with disabilities, the Consultant was a woman with a disability, there was a Working Group made up of women with disabilities, and several focus groups were held with women with disabilities. The Facilitator was a woman with a disability and the Access Audit was carried out by a woman architect with a disability.

Another exiting aspect was the fact that the Working Group, which oversaw the day to day running of the project, was made up of women with disabilities and representatives of the refuge sector. Copies of the reports can be ordered from the WWDA National Office.

State Reports


As reported previously Women with Disabilities – Tasmania was launched on International Women’s Day 1997. The group achieved three major accomplishments at this meeting. We accepted the objectives of WWDA and added that we should implement these at a local level. WWDT would concentrate its energies at two levels: Health Issues and Oral Histories. Establish an interim development committee of Robin Wilkinson, Sue Large and Fran Gillespie.

It was encouraging to have support from the Office of the Status of Women, National Women’s Health Program and the Hobart City Council.

WWDT in conjunction with the Cancer Screening and Prevention Unit as well as Family Planning Tasmania are going to hold some workshops on ‘Women with Disabilities looking after their Health!’. The first workshop will be for women with physical disabilities to discuss particular issues. It is hoped that this workshop will be carried out on a Statewide basis and its format can be adapted appropriately to meet the needs and address issues for all women with disabilities.

WWDT has also applied for funding for an “Oral Histories” project which will be Statewide, seeking stories of women with various experiences of disabilities. My ‘right hand woman’, Rosemary Russell-Green was involved in a serious car accident just after the WWDT launch. This has meant that our group’s intention of visiting and recruiting membership on a statewide basis has yet to occur.

Contacts for WWDA TAS

Robin Wilkinson
3/372 Park St
NEW TOWN Tas 7008
Ph: (03) 6228 0151 (h)
(03) 6278 8023 (w)
Fax: (03) 6228 6001

Sue Large
5/372 Park St
NEW TOWN Tas 7008
Ph: (03) 6228 2438

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Group has been greatly assisted by a $5000 grant from the Health Promotion Unit of the Territory Government. This money is to be used to run a series of workshops for all women with disabilities in the ACT. HEALTHPACT had not previously received an application for a grant from a disability group and would like to know if these courses will result in our developing a research project based on an aspect of a healthy lifestyle for women with disabilities. We hope that one outcome of the workshops will be an increase in our members.

Some of the topics to be covered by the workshops will be:

  • presentation and self image
  • self defence,
  • creative writing,
  • assertiveness and learning to say no,
  • leadership.

Canberra is preparing for a local election in February and we are planning to send a questionnaire to each of the candidates. The answers will form the basis of a survey that we will release to the media giving disability assessments of each candidates understanding of the issues of concern to citizens with disabilities.

Diane Palmer

Northern Territory

Very warm greetings from the top end. It was great to have Kerrie Watson visit the NT late in June. In Darwin we visited many government departments and agencies and non-government organisations as well as meeting the folk attending the MS hydrotherapy session and Kerrie spoke at our IDA meeting. She was well received by all we met with, and there are several women interested in starting WWDA in the Northem Territory. Kerrie also visited Alice Springs and met with women there.

The Territory has recently had an election, with the Country Liberal Party (CLP) retaining Government with many of the same ministers. The very long saga (nearly a century) of a railway from north to south was one of the points taking prominence in the lead up to election day, maybe in the next century we will be able to take a train to and from Darwin and Adelaide, with another line linking Melboume and the eastern states to the Northem Territory. I hope the transport standards are in place to “keep things on track” for those with different needs.

The Territory Health Services Five Year Disability Strategic Plan is not yet a reality (though we believe it soon may be). With the non-acceptance of the new Commonwealth State Disability Agreement by the States and Territories, we wonder just when and what may be revealed in this new plan! It’s good to keep looking ahead in hope!!

Joyce Deering

Defining Disability – National Discussion aimed at establishing ‘what is disability’

‘Disability’ is a word used in daily conversation and holding different meanings for different people. Do these different meanings matter? What is there to be gained by trying to define disability more precisely and to attempt to use the word in consistent ways?

The Disability Services Unit of the Institute, with the guidance from the national Disability Data Reference and Advisory Group, has been preparing a discussion paper entitled ‘The definition of disability in Australia: moving toward national consistency’.

This paper will attempt to set out the reasons why better national information on disability is important, and why it relies on consistent definitions to underpin the gathering of statistical data. The paper describes the current data situation in the disability field in Australia. National and international developments are outlined. A number of significant national service and survey definitions are related to key disability concepts. Suggestions, such as a core ‘disability module’, are made as to how to progress toward the ultimate aim of greater consistency in data definitions. This greater consistency will enable an improved picture of the need for and provision and use of disability services in Australia, and should also simplify the data collection process for small organisations dealing with different funding bodies across the field of disability.

People who would like to be involved in the discussion, either by commenting on draft material, or by attending one of a limited number of discussion forums to be held in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Dubbo and Canberra, should contact the Institute’s Disability Services Unit. Additional discussions may be scheduled if sufficient interest is indicated.

Tracie Hogan,
Disability Services Unit Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Ph (02) 62441179.

Disability Data Reference Group

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is one of the main bodies in Australia collecting data from and about government programs. The Institute hosts a Disability Data Reference Advisory Group (DDRAG) to give the views of people with disabilities and others on a range of issues. Dianne Temby from WWDA represents the National Caucus of Disability Consumer Organisations on the Data Reference Group. Below, Dianne describes the work of the data reference group in developing a new information model for the AIHW.

The national trend toward consistency in legislation and standards for the provision of disability services underpins the current development of the Disability and Aged Care Information Model. This Model has been merged into the first version of the National Community Services Information Model. With strong active discussion and input from the Disability Data Reference Advisory Group informing the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare it is hoped that the views of people with disabilities will be well reflected in any new model.

The Information Model will provide the structure for the dictionary (Explanatory tool for interpretation of meanings of terms in the Information Model ). The DDRAG suggest that a simple manual be available to service providers who will want to use the model .

Another issue that the Data Reference Group is looking at is the International Classification of Impairments Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH). This classification is being updated, and there has been a lot of debate about some proposed changes, particularly around the three key dimensions of the ICIDH. The first dimension is ‘impairment’, and that will remain unchanged in the revised ICIDH.

However, the second dimension ‘disability’ is being changed. This change will recognise that disability is really a classification of ‘activities’. There is still a lot of debate at the World Health Organisation about what to call this dimension, instead of ‘disability’.

The third dimension of the ICIDH is to be called ‘participation’. The definition of ‘participation’ is: ‘the nature and extent of a person’s involvement in life situations in relationship to impairments, activities and contextual factors’.

There were expressions of concern from some DDRAG members about the removal of the term ‘disability’ from the classification, and the renaming of the second dimension as ‘activities’. The debates and discussion about the classification system continue with AIHW seeking feedback and guidance from people with disabilities on DDRAG as well as from service provider representatives. Their representations to the World Health Organisation remain integral to the consensus views from DDRAG.

Dianne Temby

Bright Pink Wheelchair and a Smile

Whilst she may not be to everyone’s tastes, Mattel has released a new Barbie doll intended to change attitudes about disabled people. ‘Share a Smile Becky’, is one of Barbie’s new friends. With a hot pink wheelchair, super-slim waist line and iridescent smile, Becky is a move toward more realistic play world for children. Whether or not Becky is to your tastes, it’s positive to see disability moving into mainstream and finding a market.

Meals from Lonely Cupboards

When you live alone you have to work at providing sufficient nourishment for yourself. Fruit bowls, cake tins and bicuit barrels all take time to shop for, cook and fill, they are far from unneccesary. All are filling but none nutritious.

However when you’re hungry you need a meal. No number of slices of cake fills the digestion properly when a baked dinner is needed. Fruitiers and delicatessens cater for one person meals these days – selling chicken mini roasts, seasoning inside and out for $1.99! I suprise my budgeting skills with a Home Brand Apricot Pie, $1.50, fresh with mandarin, apple and banana slices. Baked dinners long for company, to fill the emotional and physical.

My neighbour is a prime candidate for my invitation. She cannot make baked dinners in her flat as she needs a wall oven to balance the weight of the baking tray. Being the 1989 Australian Woman Apprentice Butcher she’d be perfect to critique and companion share a chicken mini roast baked dinner. Given her traumatic car accident, her physiotherapist says she will never walk properly again, so being a butcher now is quite out of the question.

The gravy is second to perfection, all vegies primed baked. The mere smell is nourishing. Even if it’s not as Mother baked it is still gourmet tastes for the single neighbours with disabilities. It certainly provides inner wamth. Have you tried your budget wamth on a neighbour lately?

Linette Bone

Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

A meeting was held in Canberra on Tuesday 26 August with the Office for the Status of Women. The meeting was to consult about and discuss the development of an Optional Protocol for the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). There were some forty representatives from a range of women’s organisations many of whom were also present for the upcoming Round Table meeting.

The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) came into force in 1981. CEDAW is the international human rights treaty for women. Despite the existence of this convention violations and abuse occur in all societies and cultures. Amnesty International gave particular focus to this through its recent campaign ‘Human Rights are Women’s Rights’. Women are often not aware of their rights or how they are able to use this Convention. It outlines the obligations which States have to women.

The development of an Optional Protocol is fairly commonly used in human rights treaties. They provide for certain procedures with relation to the treaty. The development of an Optional Protocol would: give women the right to complain about violations of this treaty by their Governments; and enable the Committee to conduct inquiries into serious or systemic abuse of women’s human rights by those countries who have signed on to the Optional Protocol.

Currently neither individuals or groups of women are able to make complaints about what they believe are breaches of CEDAW that impact on them. The current reporting procedure under CEDAW is by countries/ governments submitting reports which indicate the measures undertaken to implement the provisions of the Convention. The other way that CEDAW can be used at present is by two or more other signatories to CEDAW referring matters but this has never been used as it is complex.

I believe that the development of an Optional Protocol will be of great benefit to disadvantaged groups. It will enable groups of women to lodge actions and thus enable a way of complaints to be identified and investigated. Thus it would enable an issue to be given a profile that it would not previously have had. This addition to CEDAW would improve and add to the existing enforcement processes and make them accessible to women.

The Australian Government has committed itself to continuing to work with this issue. We were advised that this process may take five years as every word change has to be agreed upon. It is important for the Government to understand that we support them in this issue and remain in touch at key times for comment. It is also a way that we can continue to raise issues for women with disabilities within a broader human rights context. OSW is asking for submissions from NGOs by the end of October. I understand that OSW will be writing a position paper for presentation to the Committee on the Status of Women in New York early next year.

Book Review and New Publications

“Women with Physical Disabilities: Achieving and maintaining health and well-being” – Edited by Danuta Krotoski, Margaret Nosek, Margaret Turk; Paul Brookes Publishing

The editors have gathered together their own work and that of others, to produce a feminist, disability aware interpretation of the health needs of American women with physical disabilities. This book appealed to me firstly because of the range of material presented and secondly because the authors explained how they got their conclusions, and each gave extensive bibliographies. It is not one of your boring “How to” books advocating cold water foot baths.

Carol Gill writes of our “invisibility” in a medical world, where health professionals tend to look at our disabilities, but forget to consider and counsel the woman behind the disabled image. Many regard us as asexual women uninterested in the fullness of life. So they are less likely to give good advice on sexuality, contraception, pregnancy, or research our health needs.

Margaret Nosek researches wellness models and focussed on a wellness perspective of sexuality. She found those women who felt good about their sexuality showed characteristics such as; “She asserts her right to make a choice… She feels ownership of her body… She is able to restrict the limitations resulting from her disability to physical functioning only and does not impose those limitations on her sexual self… She takes action to improve herself and her relationships… She actively seeks information about how her disability affects her sexuality… She is able to recognise psychological, physical and sexual abuse and exploitation and take action to reduce or eliminate it or to neutralise its impact… She recognises her right to live in a barrier-free environment and takes action to achieve it… She participates in health maintenance activities and engages in health promoting behaviours”.

The topics covered in this book vary from sexual response in women with spinal cord injure, to the neuroendocrinology of stress, from sexual abuse to bladder and bowel management, from women as carers and receivers of care, to health promotion for people with chronic neuromuscular disabilities.

I recommend you buy or borrow this book which is the first to seriously address our health concerns. Women with disabilities, health practitioners and researchers would find this book equally useful. Many of the issues presented are related to the United States scene, however we need to work towards our own vision with updated discussion and research by Australian women with disabilities.

Across Borders – Women with Disabilities Working Together
Edited by Dianne Driedger, Irene Feika, Eileen Giron Batres
Gynery Books

Across Borders portrays the multi-faceted work by women with disabilities from the developed and developing world. Through literacy and economic development projects,and community organisations, women with disabilities collaborate to improve their standard of living and create new opportunities for themselves and their communities.

Getting Ahead by Wendy Roberts

In her process of rehabilitation after a severe car accident left her with near fatal head injuries, Wendy Roberts began a journal, ‘Getting Ahead’ which deals with the legalities surrounding her accident, the loss of her career as a high school teacher, and a very personal account of the impact of her injury on herself as a woman, her marriage and family.

Copies are available by contacting:
Wendy Roberts,
4/24 Wakefield Street,
Kent Town 5067 Ph: (08) 8364 5439

Building Community: A Manual Exploring Issues of Women and Disability
The National Clearinghouse on Women and Girls with Disabilities, USA

Developed by The Women and Disability Awareness Project, this manual examines the connections between discrimination based on gender and disaimination based on disability. It contains background information on disability rights and on women and girls with disabilities, workshop formats, an annotated bibliography, and selected readings. Available in print, braille and tape.

Contact: Educational Equity Concepts
114 East 32 Street
Suite 701
New York 10016

Imprinting Our Image – An International Anthology by Women with Disabilities
Edited by Diane Driedger and Susan Gray
Gynergy Books

“In this global tour de force, 30 writers from 17 countries provide dramatic insight into a wide range of issues germane to both the women’s and disability rights movement.” (Disabled People’s International).

Coming Events

9-11 October 1997
Access Expo ’97 – Disability and Healthcare Solutions
Contact: Kate O’Donnell at the Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of Victoria;
Tel (03) 9414 1200; fax (03) 9414 1222

19-21 November 1997
ACROD Convention and AGM
Will be held at Melbourne Hilton on the Park, Vic.
Contact: ACROD 1997 National Convention,
c/- Moira Child and Family Support,
928 Nepean Highway, Moorabbin,VIC, 3189;
Tel (03) 9532 1316; Fax (03) 95321315;

24-27 November 1997
3rd Australian Conference of Technology for People with Disabilities
Contact: Australian Rehabilitation and Technology Association, Canberra;
Tel (02) 9244 2267; Fax (02) 9244 3439;

26-27 February 1998
Partnerships in Crime Prevention
Presented by The Australian Institute of Criminology in partnership with the National Campaign Against Violence and Crime, the conference will explore the issues related to family, community, police and criminal justice system, schools, public facilities and environment and work and employment.
Contact: Conference Co-ordinators
PO Box 139 Calwell ACT 2905;
Tel (02) 9292 9000; Fax (02) 9292 9002;

28-30 November 1997
6th Women and Labour Conference
Hosted by the Australian Women’s Research Centre, the Conference covers the themes of feminist social change across generations: diversity, power, communication and strategies for change. 16-17 February 1998.
Contact: (03) 5227 2597.

14-16 December 1997
Emerging Issues in Health: Priorities and actions International Conference
Held at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, WA.
Contact: Ms Andrea Shoebridge,
Conference Secretariat, (09) 266 2608.

16-17 February 1998
Activism, Advocacy and DisabilityRights in the Year 2000
Held at the YWCA Conference Centre, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. The conference covers education, employment, and the law.
Contact: DDLAS, GPO Box 1139K, Melbourne,VIC, 3001.

3-6 May 1998
Designing for the 21st Century. This international conference on Universal Design features plenary sessions, seminars, workshops, papers, poster presentation, and exhibitions.
Contact: Adaptive Environments, 374 Congress Street, Suite 301,
Boston, MA 02210, USA