Issue 16, June 1999

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 WWDA Chair

Message from the WWDA Executive Officer

Disability and Human Rights

The Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Website

WWDA Leadership and Mentoring Project

Wine Bed and Roses

WWDA Telecommunications Survey Findings

Project Submission: Women With Disabilities and Telecommunications

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Scheme (TIO)

WWDA Strategic Plan for 1999-2000

First Australian Tribunal on Women’s Human Rights

Sterilisation of Women With Disabilities

Review of the National Women’s Non-Government Organisation’s Funding Program

Business and Community Partnerships – WWDA Project Submission

Australian Violence Prevention Awards

The National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges in Aotearoa/New Zealand

National Project on Violence Against Women With Disabilities

State and Territory WWDA Group Reports

Electronic Mailing Lists for Women With Disabilities

New Disability Journal

Book Reviews

Upcoming Events

Message from the WWDA Chair – by Vicki Toovey

The WWDA Newsletter well reflects the many facets of the work of the organisation and the sustained commitment that we have made to a range of issues. The major theme emerging from this issue is Human Rights. It shows the enormous commitment that people with disabilities have to this issue and the problems of abuse of our rights.

The work that WWDA has achieved on women with disabilities and violence is acknowledged by the National Project on Violence against Women with Disabilities which was advertised for tender recently. This is the result of much hard work from a range of our members and Carolyn Frohmader as our Chief Executive Officer has been incredibly successful in pulling the many contributions together to create a package that is quite unrivalled in Australia and even overseas.

I was privileged to make a presentation at the First Australian Human Rights Tribunal held in Melbourne in May. It was important that the issues for women with disabilities were raised in this context and I believe the issue of sterilisation is one that is easily hidden and not recognised by other women’s groups. It is a difficult area in which to be able to get the full statistics and there is much controversy still about the figures in the HREOC Report released by Elizabeth Hastings. However whatever the true statistics it is still an issue – the importance of bodily integrity, the need for greater understanding of sexuality issues for people with disabilities, the right to make choices about our lives, our right to be parents and the provision of adequate support to achieve all these things are basic human rights issues.

Helen Meekosha’s paper on Human Rights has formed the basis for a paper which the National Caucus of Consumer Disability Organisations is putting together in a series of policy statements to cover key issues for the disability field. Her leadership in this area is much appreciated and she has set the issues solidly into the international context as well as the current national one.

I am finishing my time as Chairperson of Women with Disabilities a little earlier than expected. I had hoped to continue until September 1999 and complete two years in the position. However I will be taking up a different and definitely more mainstream role in terms of my work with both women’s issues and disability issues. It has been a great joy to me to work with so many wonderful women in WWDA and with the National Executive Council. WWDA is a strong and respected organisation in both the women’s field and the disability field and this position has been well supported by the two Chief Executive Officers with which I have worked. Helen Skeat has continued her support in her role with WESNET and Carolyn Frohmader continues to be a major driving force for WWDA, seeking opportunities for us, successfully pushing the boundaries in all sorts of areas and providing high quality executive support to the organisation.

I hope that WWDA continues to build on the strengths it has developed and that many more women will take up the opportunity of participating in leadership in the many ways that this is possible through involvement with WWDA. It is vital that we keep building on women’s strengths and maintain a strong and focussed organisation to advocate for women with disabilities. Good luck and thank you to everyone.

Vicki Toovey
WWDA Chairperson

Message from the WWDA Executive Officer – Carolyn Frohmader

WWDA is an organisation which continues to grow rapidly. The work WWDA has done over the past 12 months has lifted the organisation’s public profile considerably at State, national and international levels. WWDA’s work in the area of violence against women with disabilities has received international recognition and this has contributed to WWDA’s increased profile within the international disability community. Requests for information about our innovative work in the violence area have come from Israel, England, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. WWDA’s recognition at an international level is evident with two of our members, Di Temby and Helen Meekosha recently being invited to present papers at 2 International Conferences. With the recent development of a WWDA website, it is anticipated that WWDA’s profile at both national and international levels will continue to be raised.

The projects WWDA has done in the last 12 months have contributed significantly to the increasing public profile and increase in new members, with WWDA’s membership now close to 2000. Most notable is WWDA’s impact on mainstream services such as domestic violence services and women’s refuges; sexual assault services; women’s health centres; community health centres; legal services; advocacy services and so on. Many of these types of services, having not traditionally identified as ‘disability service providers’ have taken up WWDA membership and are working with WWDA to re-orient their services to better meet the needs of women with disabilities.

WWDA’s achievements over the past year have been significant. The organisation has been successful in attracting project funding to carry out projects in the areas of information technology, violence, telecommunications, and leadership and mentoring. WWDA has been regularly invited to participate in government consultations, such as the development of Model Domestic Violence Laws; the Review of the National Women’s Non-Government Funding Program; the development of a National Ageing Strategy; just to name a few. WWDA members have also presented papers at a wide range of Conferences and several of these papers have been published in national and international journals.

WWDA is committed to building on our achievements over the next year. To ensure the continued success of our organisation, we need help from our members. We are always seeking women with disabilities who would like to represent WWDA at government consultations, workshops, forums and so on. We are also eager to hear from members who would be interested in commenting on WWDA reports and other documents. If you can help WWDA in any way, please contact the National WWDA Office.

Lack of funding and resources continues to be a major problem for WWDA. We are always eager to hear ideas for fundraising, so if you have any, let us know! If you haven’t paid your membership fees after June 30 1999, please send in your membership fees as soon as possible. Every little bit helps.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to farewell our retiring Chairperson, Ms Vicki Toovey. Vicki is leaving her position with WWDA to take up a new position as Adviser to Senator Jocelyn Newman, the Minister for Family and Community Services and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. Vicki will be responsible for advising Senator Newman on women’s issues, disability issues and the Business and Community Partnerships. On behalf of the WWDA National Executive Committee and the WWDA membership, I would like to congratulate Vicki on her appointment and thank her for her significant contribution to our organisation during the past two years. We look forward to working with Vicki in her new position and we wish her well for the future.

Carolyn Frohmader
WWDA Executive Officer

Disability and Human Rights

Paper written and presented by Helen Meekosha to the Attorney General’s NGO Forum on Domestic Human Rights, Canberra, March 11 1999.


For many people with disabilities, Australia, at the end of the millennium, is experienced as a war zone. At a time when citizenship is a catch-cry in public debate, disabled Australians are effectively denied many of the simple rights their fellows take as given. This brief paper focuses on the processes which constrain and restrict the access to basic rights of disabled people. Human Rights are provided not solely in legislation, but most directly through services and activities in the community. When these ignore, deny or exclude disabled people no legislation is sufficient.

The category ‘disability’ is itself very loose – covering people whose impairments may be intellectual, physical, sensory, and psychiatric. Impairments may be temporary or permanent and in many ways able- bodiedness is a temporary condition. Yet we all have basic rights whatever the status the wider society seeks to impose on us.

The war-zone metaphor may appear specious to those who have no direct experience of disability – yet in the past few years there have been innumerable examples of situations where disabled citizens have been confronted by life and death situations due to the social responses to their disability. Few are ever reported in the public sphere.

A person with a psychiatric disability is shot dead on Bondi Beach because his behaviour appears bizarre to the police; a disabled woman wins a decade long struggle to adopt a child, who is then abducted and murdered allegedly by its natural mother; a blind woman has her guide dog seized from her in the street, and she is left abandoned; a disabled academic in a wheelchair is struck by a truck on campus trying to make her way to work in a university with no access policy. At least one in five women affected by domestic violence is a woman with a disability ( Frohmader,1999) In addition it has become evident that countless people in institutions are left in the most horrendous, unhygienic and isolated circumstances; unlawful killings have emerged as a regular practice in some institutions. And there has been no replacement for the Disability Commissioner for two years, and the government plans to abolish the post.

There are thousands of stories in a minor key which reveal the exhausting struggle for simple services, self-respect and basic rights. A university leases a building for conferences, knowing it to be inaccessible and in breach of its own Access Plan. Taxi drivers abuse women whose physical appearance they find strange or threatening. Residents take AVOs against intellectually disabled people trying to live in the community. Parents lose custody battles simply on the basis of their impairment.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), signed in 1948, marked the beginning of an era when all states should respect the rights of their citizens. In 1999, in Australia, as in many other parts of the world, widespread abuse of people with disabilities constitutes serious violation of many of the articles contained in the UDHR. The current political, economic and social climate in Australia is seriously undermining gains that have been made by the disability movement over the last two decades.

Recent debates that have taken place on the nature of citizenship, the constitution and the future of the Australian nation have largely ignored and thereby excluded the 18% of the population who are people with disabilities. Indeed many people with disabilities are effectively denied the opportunity to realise the basic rights and responsibilities of other Australian citizens. While we (the majority of whom are women) constitute nearly one-fifth of the population, we are neither visible in the community, nor likely to hold high office in the public or private sectors. At some point in their lives most of us are at serious risk of poverty, abuse and discrimination. We simply are not considered worthy of the “right to life, liberty and security of person” (UNDHR Article 3).

In recent years, we have built a political program based on the assertion that our primary disabilities are social, formed by the systematic exclusion by and fear within the wider society. Society sees us through our impairments, and treats us as medical cases, not as citizens with rights. For the most part. it is seen as ‘normal’ and inevitable that we be excluded, segregated and forgotten. Disabled people are confronted by many different power structures besides those which disables us – including relations of race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality.

Now it is time to bring about reconciliation with people with disabilities , by a process that recognises the damage that has been done and that allows us to speak our history. As has been recognised in relation to Indigenous Australians, it is not possible to move forward without an understanding of the depth and seriousness of past and current abuse and discrimination. For people with disabilities this means not only dealing with the effect of impairments, by providing the ramps and the hearing loops, but also understanding the role of socially constructed barriers. Powerful groups in the community have used strategies of exclusion, incarceration, denial of difference, and physical barriers in order to ensure people with disabilities are rendered invisible. We must seek a way forward that guarantees that people with disabilities are treated with dignity and respect and which recognises fully our place in society.

Some examples of violations of the rights of people with disabilities in Australia

Life, freedom and dignity

  • Abuse and violence against people with disabilities in institutions (Articles 1-5 ), including starvation, beatings, sexual abuse, inappropriate medication and other forms of degrading treatment.
  • Loss of life – deaths in care and police shootings.
  • Forced sterilisation of disabled women and girls (Articles 5,16), (Brady and Glover, 1997).
  • Ethical issues concerning the use of prenatal testing for disabled women.
  • Lack of access/ cost of assistive devices, appliances, sign language interpreters, respite etc (Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons)
  • Financial hardship and poverty – growth of user pays such as in the HACC program.
  • Denial of sexuality, reproductive and parenting rights. (Article 16)
  • Personal violence against women with disabilities and lack of access to refuges.
  • Discrimination in rental accommodation; inadequate supported accommodation and respite care.

Access to justice

  • Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill: removal of Disability Commissioner; costs of unconciliated complaints (user pays); removal of HREOC power to seek leave to intervene in relevant cases (Article 6), proposed prescription of certain state legislation from DDA.
  • Reduction in staff/resources in the Disability Unit at HREOC; reduced access to DDA.
  • Cuts in Legal Aid affecting people with disabilities.
  • People with disabilities losing custody/access battles on basis of disability.
  • Lack of access to independent impartial tribunals (article 10).
  • Invasion of privacy of people with disabilities (article 12) living in residential settings.

Rights to Mobility

  • People with disabilities often trapped in homes and institutions due to lack of/cost of assistive devices and personal attendants/ access to transport.
  • Physical environment is inaccessible and hostile to many people with disabilities.
  • People with disabilities are subject to intrusive stares, comments and invasive remarks when in the community.
  • No anti- vilification legislation for people with disabilities.
  • Immigration Act exempt from DDA (article 14).

Civil Rights

  • Lack of Code covering Bioethics. What is the Australian Government position on Human Genome Project? Protection for genetic privacy ? Issues of respect for genetic diversity and uniqueness.
  • Citizenship issues : right to vote, citizenship education , jury service, trial by peers etc. (Article 21)
  • Lack of representation of people with disabilities within participatory democracy. The Australian Citizenship Act (1948) deems those of “unsound mind” ineligible to exercise the vote. (Article 21).

Rights to Work and Leisure

  • Discrimination in Employment (Article 23); lack of adjustment in the workplace, lack of accessible transport to and from workplace
  • Discrimination against people with disabilities in tourism, leisure and hospitality industry. (Article 24)
  • No affirmative action rights for people with disabilities.

Rights to Health and Education

  • Discrimination in education, pre schools, schools and higher education. Curriculum issues, access issues, absence of reasonable adjustment. (Article 26).
  • Lack of access/ cost of assistive devices, appliances, interpreters etc
  • Financial hardship and poverty – growth of user pays in HACC.
  • Lack of access to appropriate medication/ inappropriate medication (Article 25).
  • Need for implementation of report on Human Rights and People with Mental Illness

International Instruments

There exist a number of international legal instruments and reports that can be used to call on the Australian Government to account for its lack of attention to human rights issues for people with disabilities.

There are 6 International Conventions which from the basis of the international bill of rights. While only the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically makes reference to rights of children with disabilities, there is no doubt that all these conventions apply to people with disabilities as well as other members of the community. They are:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1996/1976)
  • International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (1965)
  • International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
  • Convention against Torture (1984)
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child. (1989)

Any doubt about the application of these conventions to people with disabilities has been put to rest by the World Conference on Human Rights. Para 63 of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action states:

The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms that all human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal and thus unreservedly include persons with disabilities. Every person is born equal and has the same rights to life and welfare, education and work, living independently and active participation in all aspects of society. Any direct discrimination or other negative discriminatory treatment of a disabled person is therefore a violation of his or her rights. The World Conference on Human Rights calls on Governments, where necessary, to adopt or adjust legislation to assure access to these and other rights for disabled persons. (at para 63)

There are a number of International Declarations, Guidelines and Resolutions emanating from the UN which deal specifically with a range of issues relating to disability:

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
  • The Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons (1975)
  • Declaration on the Rights of Mentally retarded persons (1971)
  • Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care (1991)
  • Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (48/96 of 20 December 1993).
  • The Convention Concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment(Disabled Persons)(1958) (ILO Convention 111)

There exist many reports emanating from international instrumentalities such as the UN and NGOs, including:

  • World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons(1982)
  • Vienna Declaration and Program of Action ( adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights) (1993)
  • Report on Human Rights and Disability by Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (1991)

With respect to the human rights of people with disabilities, Cibinel and Kiwanuka (1998) state:

the findings of the report on Human Rights and Disability by Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, indicating that in most countries, human rights violations against disabled people take the form of unconscious discrimination, including the creation and maintenance of man-made (sic) barriers preventing disabled people from enjoying full social, economic and political participation in their communities…. Most governments appear to have a narrow understanding of human rights vis-a-vis disabled people and believe they need only abstain from taking measures which have a negative impact on them. As a consequence, disabled people are neglected in the area of human rights policy and legislation….


Disabled people across Australia are convinced that only through a thorough public exploration of the violence and discrimination against us can there be a future of equality and justice within local communities and in the wider social environment.

Disabled groups are in general agreement that there is need for an urgent Public Inquiry or Royal Commission into the abuse of people living in institutions, both historically and currently. This would allow for a public recognition of the grief and suffering that disabled people have experienced, and chart a way forward where all disabled citizens are able to enjoy their rights free from abuse.

The re-instatement of the Disability Commissioner with wide powers of investigation and enforcement. A Commissioner without adequate resources is of little value.

An independent audit of Australia’s compliance with the Standard Rules is necessary to begin to appreciate the issues confronting people with disabilities.

Disability become a standing item on the NGO Forum agenda.

Select Bibliography

Auditor General, N. S. W. (1997). Large Residential Centres for People with a Disability in NSW. Sydney, NSW Audit Office.

Brady, S. and Grover, S. (1997). The Sterilisation of Girls and Young Women in Australia: A Legal, Medical and Social Context. Sydney, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Carmody, M. (1990). Sexual Assault of People with an Intellectual Disability. Sydney, NSW Women’s Coordination Unit.

Cibinel, A and Kiwanuka, J (1998) “Human Rights and disabled people”, paper provided to UN Human Rights Vienna +5 Conference, June 1998, Ottowa from (

Conway, R., Bergin, L. and Thornton, K. (1996). Abuse and Adults with Intellectual Disability Living in Residential Services. Mawson, National Council on Intellectual Disability.

Cooper, M. (1993). “Discrimination Against Women with Disabilities.” Australian Disability Review 4: 69 -72.

Darrow, M. (1996). “International Human Rights Law and Disability: Time for an International Convention on the Human Rights of People with Disabilities.” Australian Journal of Human Rights 3(1): 69-96.

Degener, T. and Koster-Dreese,Y (eds) (1995) Human Rights and Disabled Persons, Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff.

Fletcher, A. (1995). Information Kit on the United Nations Standard Rules for the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. London: Disability Awareness in Action.

Frohmader, C. (1999). Violence Against Women with Disabilities, Dickson: Women with Disabilities Australia.

Gooding, C. (1994). Disabling Laws, Enabling Acts: Disability Rights in Britain and America. London: Pluto Books.

Hurst, R (ed) (1998) Are Disabled People Included?, London: Disability Awareness in Action

Jones, M. and Marks, L. (1999). Law and the Social Construction of Disability. Disability, Diversability and Legal Change, Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff.

Meekosha, H. and Jakubowicz, A. (1996). Disability, Participation, Representation and Social Justice. Disability and the Dilemmas of Education and Justice. C. Christensen and F. Rizvi. Milton Keynes, Open University Press: 79-95.

Meekosha, H. and Dowse, L. (1997). “Enabling citizenship: Gender, disability and citizenship.” Feminist Review (Autumn): 49-72.

Meekosha, H. (1998). Body Battles: bodies, gender and disability The Disability Reader: social science perspectives. T. Shakespeare. (ed) London: Cassell.

Meekosha, H. (1998). Feminism and Disability. Oxford Companion to Australian Feminism. B. Caine (et al). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Newnham, H. (1996). “The sterilisation of intellectually disabled minors.” Australian Disability Review 1: 23-33.

Rayner, M. (1992). “Disability and Discrimination.” Australian Disability Review.

Rock, P. (1996). “Eugenics and Euthanasia: a cause for concern for disabled people, particularly disabled women.” Disability and Society 11(1): 121-127.

Silvers, A. (1998). “Disability Rights.” Encyclopaedia of Applied Ethics, Vol 1: 781-796.

Silvers, A. (1998). “Reprising Women’s Disability: Feminist Identity Strategy and Disability Rights.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal 13: 81-116.

Waxman, B. (1991). “Hatred: The Unacknowledged Dimension in Violence Against Disabled People.” Sexuality and Disability 9(3): 185-199.

Waxman, B. (1994). “Up against Eugenics: Disabled Women’s Challenge to Receive Reproductive Health Services.” Sexuality and Disability 12(2): 155-171.

The Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Website

In 1998, Women With Disabilities Australia applied to the National Office of the Information Economy for funding under the AccessAbility Online Grants Program. WWDA’s project proposal had been developed in response to needs identified by women with disabilities in Australia in research and consultations carried out by WWDA. WWDA found that access to the Internet was a major priority for women with disabilities. Many women participating in the consultations felt that women with disabilities had been ‘left behind’ in the information technology revolution.

The aim of the WWDA project is to promote access to online information for women with disabilities in Australia. The main strategies to achieve this are:

  • to develop an Australian women with disabilities website as a model of best practice in design and content, including the development of a national electronic based Women With Disabilities support group;
  • to conduct Internet Training Workshops for women with disabilities; and,
  • to provide an Internet access point for each State and Territory branch of WWDA and electronically link these branches.

WWDA’s funding submission to the AccessAbility Online Grants Program was successful and in late December 1998, WWDA received the first instalment of the project funds from a total grant of $63, 754.

The first 3 months of the Project have seen WWDA concentrate on the development of a WWDA website. A significant amount of planning and research has gone into the site development. An extensive amount of work has gone into the building of the site, which has been developed to act as a ‘one stop shop’ for information on women with disabilities. The site has been developed to meet the needs of a wide range of users, including women with disabilities, community care workers, policy makers, organisations in the disability and women’s sectors, academics, researchers, and so on. The site has been developed in such a way that it can be regularly built upon and updated.

Information currently available on the WWDA web site includes the following:

About Women With Disabilities Australia
This section of the site contains information about Women With Disabilities Australia and includes: Background; Objectives; Management; Membership; Funding; Policy and Program Areas; Organisational Affiliations; Women With Disabilities Australia Constitution; How You Can Help Women With Disabilities Australia; Contact Information. This section also contains information about the peak disability organisations in Australia, as well as their contact details. E-Mail addresses for these organisations are linked from the WWDA site.

Women With Disabilities Australia – What’s New
This section of the website contains information about current activities of WWDA, including current projects being undertaken and other activities. By providing this information on the website, WWDA hopes this strategy will assist the organisation being more accountable to its membership and will also facilitate WWDA members becoming more involved in activities of the organisation.

WWDA Reports, Publications, Papers
This section of the website is very comprehensive and contains most of WWDA’s publications, reports, documents, conference papers and other articles that have been written since the establishment of WWDA. Examples of some of the documents available in their entirety in this section include: WWDA Submissions to Government Consultations and Processes; Conference Papers and Other Articles; Annual Reports and Reports to Funding Bodies; WWDA Reports and Publications.

WWDA Newsletters
This section of the website contains every Newsletter WWDA has published since its inception. This section provides a good historical overview of WWDA and demonstrates the growth and expansion of the organisation over the last 7 years. This includes several years where it was a non-funded organisation, operating as a network attached to another disability organisation.

This section of the WWDA website is organised into issue based areas. A standard format is used for each Issue area, and this is: WWDA Papers, Articles, Reports; Links to Related Disability Sites; Links to General Sites; Further Reading. Structuring each issue area in this way enables users to get an overview of what information is available (both on-line and off-line) in relation to the issue area. It also enables the user to see where there are gaps and areas needing further research. The issue areas currently available on the website include: Advocacy; Ageing; Citizenship; Education and Employment; Eugenics and Euthanasia; Gender and Disability – General; Health; Housing Issues; Information Technology; Leadership and Mentoring; Legal Issues; Motherhood and Parenting; Non-English Speaking Background and Indigenous Issues; Sexuality and Reproductive Rights, Sterilisation of Minors; Transport; Violence and Abuse.

Links to Other Sites
This section of the WWDA website contains links to other relevant websites. It is organised into two areas and these are: Links to Women With Disabilities Websites; and Links to General Disability Websites. This section provides not only links to other sites, but also a summary of each site. This has been done in order to give the user a brief overview of each site linked, as often the headings of websites do not give an indication of what the site contains.

About the WWDA Website
This section of the website provides information under the following sub-headings: The Need for a WWDA Website; Acknowledgment to the Funding Body; Design and Accessibility; Links to Websites Dealing with Accessible Website Design; How to Contribute to this Website. The section provides detailed background information about why there was a need for a WWDA website – it looks at gender issues in relation to information technology and provides statistical and anecdotal information about why women with disabilities are less likely to have access to information technologies, particularly the Internet. It also sets out the rationale and objectives of WWDA’s website, including what the organisation hopes to achieve by developing an accessible and appropriate website for women with disabilities.

WWDA has used this section of the website to try and raise awareness of, and educate people about the need for accessible web design. This WWDA website has been designed in a way which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities. It is deliberately devoid of pictures and other graphics. This will assist people with visual impairments who cannot see pictures, as well as those people lacking multi-media computer functions and people using non-current web browsers. One of the main objectives of this website is to make our information available to the widest possible audience. As information dissemination is a key objective of the site, a simple, accessible and functional design is most appropriate.

WWDA has developed the web site to be in accordance with the Website Accessibility Guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the AUS Standards for Web Design, both endorsed by the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. It has also been developed in line with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. WWDA has also used this opportunity to encourage other individuals, organisations and/or companies to follow our example, and work to ensure that their website is inclusive of people with disabilities. This section of the website also provides a range of links to other sites dealing with issues related to accessible web design.

Information is provided in this section about how users can contribute to the ongoing development of the WWDA website. Users are encouraged to give feedback to the site in order to ensure that the information provided continues to meet the needs of women with disabilities. Users are also encouraged to contribute their own material, information, resources and so on.

Finding Information on the Internet
This section of the website provides information to users about search facilities they can use to help them find what they are looking for on the Internet. The information has been organised into Australian and International Search Engines.

How to Contribute to the WWDA Website
WWDA is committed to ensuring that our website meets the needs of women with disabilities. We are committed to continually developing our site so that we can set the benchmark internationally for on-line information for women with disabilities.

You can help us to achieve these aims by letting us know what you think of our site. Any comments, suggestions, criticisms, ideas etc are most welcome. You can also help us to continue adding to this website by sending us any information you would like to see included. Let us know of any new sites which we could add as links. Send us your articles, personal stories, poems etc. Let us know of any new books, videos, or other resources you come across which may be relevant.

You can give us your ideas by phone, fax, TTY, letter or email.

For more information, contact Carolyn Frohmader, WWDA Executive Officer on (02) 62421310 or via email on

WWDA Leadership and Mentoring Project

Despite the fact that in Australia, approximately 18% of all women are disabled and more than 50% of people with disabilities are women (Mulder 1996), women with disabilities continue to be categorised as a special interest group; their experience is isolated from the mainstream and marginalised. Women with disabilities in Australia:

  • are less likely to be in paid work than other women, men with disabilities or the population as a whole. Men with disabilities are almost twice as likely to have jobs than women with disabilities.
  • earn less than their male counterparts. 51% of women with a disability earn less than $200 per week compared to 36% of men with a disability. Only 16% of women with a disability earn over $400 per week, compared to 33% of men with a disability.
  • are less likely than their male counterparts to receive a senior secondary and tertiary education. Only 16% of all women with disabilities are likely to have any secondary education compared to 28% of men with disabilities.
  • are less likely to own their own houses than their male counterparts.
  • pay the highest level of their gross income on housing, yet are in the lowest income earning bracket.
  • are more likely to be institutionalised than their male counterparts.
  • regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or class are assaulted, raped and abused at a rate of at least two times greater than non-disabled women.
  • are often forced to live in situations in which they are vulnerable to violence.
  • are more likely to experience violence at work than other women, men with disabilities or the population as a whole.
  • are more likely to be unlawfully sterilised than their male counterparts.
  • are less likely to receive vocational rehabilitation or entry to labour market programs.
  • report a greater need for unmet help than their male counterparts.
  • are less likely to receive appropriate services than men with equivalent needs or other women.

(Anderson 1996; Frohmader 1998; WWDA 1998; ABS 1993).

Leadership is a major issue for women with disabilities in Australia. Lack of training opportunities, employment and education mean that women with disabilities have few chances to develop leadership skills. In most states of Australia, access to education for women with disabilities is limited. As an organisation, WWDA is very committed to promoting leadership and mentoring for women with disabilities in Australia. One of the major strategies WWDA employs to reach its objectives and ultimately its goals, is to facilitate and promote leadership for women with disabilities. Enabling women with disabilities to acquire new knowledge and skills, and by providing them with opportunities for self-development and increased confidence, is one way WWDA can work towards achieving equality for women with disabilities in Australia.

In 1998, WWDA applied to the Global Fund for Women (based in the United States) for funding to enable the development of a Leadership & Mentoring Program for women with disabilities in Australia. The outcomes and recommendations from the WWDA Leadership Workshop (conducted in 1997) were used to formulate WWDA’s submission to the Global Fund for Women. This submission was successful and in late 1998, WWDA received $15,000 US dollars to undertake the Project.

In early 1999, WWDA contracted a Consultant (Ms Anne Storr, member WWDA Tasmania) to undertake the first part of the Project which is to develop a Leadership and Mentoring Resource Kit for women with disabilities. The Kit is to be made up of 3 parts or sections. The Kit will be developed in such a way that will enable each section to be used on its own, or as a complete package. The objective of the Consultancy Project is to: develop a Leadership and Mentoring Resource Kit which can be implemented by each State/Territory and regional branch of WWDA, irrespective of the stage of development of each group.

Part One of the Leadership and Mentoring Resource Kit will include information on at least the following:

  • an introduction to leadership including definition and discussion of why leadership is important for women with disabilities;
  • self-esteem and confidence (including definitions and discussion of why this is an issue for women with disabilities and so on);
  • assertiveness and public speaking (including definitions and discussion of why this is an issue for women with disabilities and so on);
  • rationale and discussion of why a woman with a disability would want to become involved in WWDA (or any other group etc), why it is important for women with disabilities to ‘speak up’; to talk about their experiences, etc, and why it is important for women with disabilities to develop the confidence, knowledge and skills to assist them to work for change;
  • an introduction to mentoring including definition and discussion of why mentoring is important for women with disabilities;
  • description of the process of mentoring, including why it is important for each State and Territory WWDA group to identify a mentor and a woman to be mentored.

Part Two of the Leadership and Mentoring Resource Kit will include information on at least the following:

  • group formation – how to form a group; reasons why women with disabilities might want to form a group; group processes; what makes an effective group; roles and responsibilities of groups; group dynamics and so on;
  • decision making – processes of decision-making; effective ways of decision-making in women’s groups; collective and consensus models of decision-making;
  • promoting leadership and mentoring in groups;
  • identifying needs at the local level etc;
  • promoting the group and enlisting new members;
  • networking.

Part Three of the Leadership and Mentoring Resource Kit will include information on at least the following:

  • formalising a group;
  • how to become incorporated (including information where to find information and other resources on incorporation); the rationale for incorporation;
  • legal requirements of groups (both incorporated and un-incorporated)
  • developing a Constitution for the group (to include an example of a model constitution);
  • forming a Committee; election procedures and meeting procedures;
  • ideas and suggestions for how groups can generate support from their local community resources (such as enlisting the support of local community development workers, women’s services, local MP’s, disability organisations and so on);
  • financial management (including setting up bank accounts, applying for tax exemption status, charging of membership fees and so on);
  • report writing and accountability to members, funding bodies and the National WWDA Office;
  • basic planning and evaluation for groups;
  • conducting and participating in consultations;
  • ideas and suggestions on how to find out about, and apply for funding through grants processes etc (to include
  • suggestions of places where groups can access information about funding sources;
  • basic submission writing techniques (perhaps to include an example of a funding submission); resources groups can use to get assistance with submission writing and so on.
  • how to apply to the WWDA National Executive Committee to request that the particular State/Territory or regional group becomes a formal branch of WWDA.

For more information on this Project, contact Carolyn Frohmader, WWDA Executive Officer on (02) 62421310 or via email on

Wine Bed and Roses – by Phyllis Rappaport

I am sitting in my new electric double bed. It is Friday 3rd April. I am sipping a glass of red wine with cheese and biscuits. The roses are coming. The coffee is here and with Pavorotti singing masterly in the background. My heaven is made to lie and stretch in all this space of a double bed. My head lolls back among my pillows, a grandiose sigh slips slowly past my lips!

Such indulgence may first appear extravagant. I have been waiting the best part of a year to get this electric bed through PADP, (Program & Appliances for Disabled People). The problem was that the present guidelines of PADP did not allow the program to purchase a bed of this kind, in a double size of my choice. They could fund single or three-quarter size beds but not the double. The double size in such a bed was not considered to be basic equipment that would aid or enhance my mobility. Even though I am a married woman. I have been married for some thirty years.

This lineal attitude doesn’t allow disabled people as myself to be perceived and seen as adult sexual intelligent free choosing people who are living in stable marital relationships. Yet society perceives and credits non-disabled people living in society with this status which belongs to being a whole Human being. Relationships are intrinsic to that humanity and are part of the humanness in Human society who need physical and emotional contact with each other for quality life and survival.

When items of equipment are installed or advice given in the home of a person with a disability, the needs and feelings of the person, who requires the assistance, should be given complete consideration. The home of a person with a disability is not a hospital or a setting for one merely because specialist technical equipment is required in the home by the person with the disability to aid and enhance his or her mobility.

The needs and feelings of the family of the person with a disability should be taken into account as individuals and also in conjunction to the relationship of the person with a disability. The human cost for me and my case with the bed was that I felt ‘publicly stripped’ of my self image and my identity and status of a married woman when I had to publicly explain why I wanted and needed a double size in an electrically operated bed.

My husband is my carer and in both these roles he suffered from the ‘public exposure’ of our lives and the inconvenience and stresses the additional time and ‘labour’ it took in getting the bed to the coalface. Married or not, the size of bed should have been my own free choice. I consider the Health Professionals did not give to me the respect and rights that they would have accorded to a non-disabled married woman.

A bed is a much more personalised space for a person with a disability, than even a wheelchair, and that personal space may be shared with another person, who may or may not be the carer/spouse/partner of the person with a disability. It must be remembered that people with disabilities are not asexual people. Sexual identity can help define personality and the choice in size and style of bed can be a manifestation of how we wish to portray ourselves to the outside world. It is to be recognised that this self-identity is an important psychological factor in good mental health for all of society not just the disabled community.

In my case the price of the bed wasn’t a great deal more between the three-quarter and the double size. It seemed to be systemic guideline that the PADP Program felt they could not alter. Was it because that change in the guidelines would inevitably bring about a need by the Health Sector to perceive and seen people with disabilities in a whole new light? Oh! They are equal to us now. They are really the same as us. They want and have different sizes in beds. They are sexually active people and have partners as anyone else does in ‘normal’ society. In other words, by this gauge, we, people with disabilities, are normal.

The issues that were highlighted from my case were those of education and training of health professional and nursing staff on the awareness of the life experiences and needs of people with disabilities in the home-living situation. To see and treat us as real and whole people, for that is what we are, real people with real feelings and real and whole needs.

Also I see the importance on the inclusion of family members, spouses and friends of disabled people and to consider them always, as essential and integral parts of that person’s lifestyle. If health and nursing practitioners can begin to widen their thinking to gain a more holistic understanding of the needs of people with all disabilities, finally some real change can be brought about in the health sector. We may then see a new model-of-thinking of disability or difference as integral to us all extending beyond the medical model and incorporating all aspects and facets of living as complete human beings.

Each one of us needs to be recognised as human beings with intelligence, talents, and gifts to give and receive from others. If this recognition does not take place then our very state of being is invalidated. We all need to be recognised as people. We have to recognise humanness in ageing, disability colour or ethnic and religious difference.

How do we do this? I believe we can do this by thinking beyond our perceptions of other people. We as a society have to lose our fear of difference in people. Whether that difference manifests by a physical or intellectual disability. A colour or religious or even a difference in class as defined by Man. I believe that the inability of PADP to alter, modernise and equalise the Program’s guidelines was in this ‘fear of difference’. The fear of an equality for all of us that should encompass all people in society.

If the Health Professionals and the Program ‘Makers’ turned around their thinking of People with Disabilities as being equal in the eyes of society, as people standing, sitting, alongside these other people with professions, in expertisms. This would quickly require a new ideology for sharing of ideas and experiences between these two sets of people who are now equal without superiority over the other.

People who have disabilities have a wealth of experience to share with those in society who are not disabled. It is only by sharing and giving out to other people that we can receive experiences and knowledge that will enlighten our thinking.

The disabled and the non-disabled would then perceive and see each other with the same eye. There would be no need to hold expertisms to us as pinnacles on high, but rather, there would be an opportunity and need to give and gather ideas for improving and extending lives of all of us irrespective of disability or ability.

This will not be as difficult, as it first seems, if we can stop judging the interior to be what the exterior appears to be. This is a step towards letting go our perceptions and assumptions of each other and seeing, ourselves and others, with a new in-sight.

As a British writer, Simon Brissenden, as envisaged for people with disabilities for true holistic independence, he writes:

“The point is that independent
People who have control
Over their lives, not that they
Perform every task themselves.
Independence is not linked
To the physical or intellectual
Capacity to care for oneself
Without assistance; independence
Is created by having assistance
When and how one requires it.”

In Abstract Volume 2, Issue 1, 30th March 1998

This statement is therefore closely linked to and applies to any Professional help inside the home of a person with a disability and pertains to Freedom of Choice as being a major factor of true independence.

WWDA Telecommunications Survey Findings

Enclosed with the last edition of WWDA News was a questionnaire developed by WWDA about Telecommunications. The survey was conducted by WWDA for two reasons:

  • to provide information to a national project on Telecommunications and disability consumer representation being conducted by Blind Citizens Australia (Women With Disabilities Australia is represented on the project by Margaret Cooper); and
  • to assist WWDA in identifying the issues facing women with disabilities in relation to telecommunications.

The survey results were collated and analysed by Sue Salthouse, a WWDA member from the ACT. Sue also prepared a draft Report based on the survey findings. The following information is taken from the Executive Summary of the Final Report.

Executive Summary of the WWDA Report on Telecommunications

Traditionally, disability has largely been understood in the context of the bio-medical model. It has been synonymous with personal tragedy, and has tended to concentrate on individuals’ medical conditions and/or impairments. An alternative model, and one much more acceptable to people with disabilities, is the social model of disability. The social model of disability views disability as a form of oppression which entails certain restrictions. Oliver argued this point when he said: “all disabled people experience disability as social restriction, whether these restrictions occur as a consequence of inaccessible built environments, questionable notions of intelligence and social competence, the inability of the general public to use sign language, the lack of reading material in Braille or hostile public attitudes to people with non-visible disabilities”.

Despite the fact that in Australia, 19% of the population is disabled and more than 50% of people with disabilities are women, women with disabilities continue to be categorised as a special interest group; their experience isolated from the mainstream and marginalised. Disabled women have had little opportunity to portray their experiences within the general culture or within political movements. Their experience is isolated and individualised and the definitions which society places on them focus on judgments of individual capacities and personalities.

In early 1999, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), the national peak body for women with all types of disabilities, undertook a small survey of its members to identify their experiences of, and concerns relating to telecommunications. There has been a groundswell of opinion and research highlighting the potential for telecommunications to improve living standards for women. However, none of this research has included the experiences and needs of women with disabilities in relation to telecommunications. Anecdotal evidence collected by WWDA indicates that access to telecommunications is a major area of inequity for women with disabilities. The Telecommunications Survey undertaken by WWDA was framed within a philosophy of disability rights and the social model of disability. It was not a ‘needs based’ survey, but rather came from a context of rights, which affirms that telecommunications should be available to all, and this includes women with disabilities.

The survey was distributed to approximately 700 women with disabilities around Australia. Respondents were given 4 weeks to complete and return the questionnaire. One hundred and seventy five responses were received. This represents a response rate of 26%.

The major themes which emerged from the survey responses were undoubtedly access and affordability issues, poor design and incompatibility of telecommunications equipment, lack of awareness of disability issues on the part of telecommunications service providers, lack of appropriate information about telecommunications equipment and services, and the importance of online communication for women with disabilities.

Telecommunications are vital for women with disabilities. For many, it is the means by which they link in with their community and retrieve their place in society. Telecommunications play a integral role in reducing isolation, stress and fatigue as well as alleviating loneliness for women with disabilities. It increases their independence, reduces dependence and enables opportunities for education and employment. For many women with disabilities, telecommunications allow them to have contact with their family and friends, to pay their bills, to do their banking and shopping, to arrange their personal care, to organise transport, to undertake study, and to access information. Telecommunications are also of vital importance in providing security and assisting with emergencies. Telecommunications enable women with disabilities to participate in, and take their rightful place in their community.

“Even when I am bed-bound, the telephone and the Internet have enabled me to still access people, information etc and given me the ability to contribute to the world.”

The most common pieces of telecommunications equipment used by women with disabilities are the standard phone and answering machine. The most highly desired pieces of equipment are computer with Internet access and the mobile phone.

“I would like to try using the Internet but I can’t afford a computer”.

The Internet is seen by many women with disabilities as an important accessibility aid to access mainstream information and services, as well as information to meet their specific needs as women with disabilities. The computer with Internet access is regarded by women with disabilities as a liberating asset and as a way of breaking down communication barriers. It allows them access to mainstream sources of information, it reduces their isolation and dependence and widens their access to family, friends, employers and information (for study, recreation, lobbying and general research).

“Through Internet newsgroups I met women from all parts of the world who had been through the same experience as me; my wonderful ‘on-line’ support network supports me…….Through the Web I was able to research and find information about my disability and also strategies to help me deal with it. The Internet is more useful to me than any doctor….”

For those women with disabilities who use the Internet, access remains a barrier. Dial up time charged by the hour can present problems for women who have trouble typing or coordinating a mouse. Similarly, participating in chat groups can be a problem for women who cannot type quickly enough to ‘keep up’. Graphic based websites are inaccessible to women with visual impairments. The costs associated with installing a second telephone line are often out of the reach of many women with disabilities. Accessing the Internet through public venues such as libraries is only an option for women with disabilities who have access to transport. For many women with disabilities, transport is an additional cost.

The greatest restrictions to Internet access for women with disabilities is affordability and lack of training. Nearly all respondents to the survey indicated that they would like to have access to a computer with Internet, but cited lack of funds as the major factor limiting access.

“The expense of the Internet makes it unattainable and leads to increased feelings of isolation.”

The biggest barrier to accessing telecommunications equipment is affordability. This includes cost of buying, as well as costs associated with running, servicing and maintenance of equipment. The costs associated with adaptive and assistive devices are also a problem. Affordability is also a barrier to accessing training (particularly computer and Internet training). Having a disability can often mean a reduced access to employment and therefore reduced income. At the same time it means increased reliance on telecommunication, yet many women with disabilities are simply not able to afford the telecommunications equipment which many non-disabled people take for granted.

Access to telecommunications equipment is further complicated for women with disabilities due to lack of information and instructions in alternative formats, including in braille, in electronic formats, in plain English and large size print.

The design of much telecommunications equipment and its placement (particularly in public areas) presents barriers to its use for women with disabilities. Many women with disabilities experience difficulties associated with using payphones, such as the excessive height, poorly designed coin and card insertion and change retrieval features, and poor sound quality. The standard push button phone is considered by many women with disabilities to be badly designed – button size too small, buttons too close together, poor key pad design, no volume control, and cords too short. Similarly, design of mobile phones is a problem for many women with disabilities. Many women with disabilities rely on mobile phones for increased independence and emergency and security. The mobile phone is becoming smaller and smaller in design and this is presenting difficulties for women with disabilities who have hand and mobility restrictions – for example, the buttons are now smaller and closer together which can make it increasingly difficult to use. Mobile phones are a problem for deaf and/or hearing impaired women as they are not compatible with hearing aids.

Almost all respondents to the survey registered as having ‘multiple disabilities’ with an average of 2 disabilities per respondent. Many respondents believe that the design of telecommunications equipment should reflect this. There is a belief amongst respondents that “equipment is not designed to consider the needs of people with disability.” There is an obvious need for people with disabilities to be more actively involved in the design of telecommunications equipment, and this includes standard equipment as well as adaptive devices.

Respondents to the survey offered a range of suggestions for improved design of telecommunications equipment for people with disabilities. Some of these included:

  • lightweight, non-breakable equipment;
  • voice operated mobile phones and fax machines;
  • phones with volume control on both speaker and receiver;
  • answering machines which can print out the messages;
  • water proof equipment, particularly mobile phones;
  • bigger font size on equipment;
  • equipment which enables hands-free operation;
  • speaker function on fax and answering machine;
  • improved volume control for mobile, standard, and cordless phones;
  • beeping cordless and mobile phones;
  • number dialled confirmation feature on phones;
  • audio feature on Automatic Teller Machines (ATM);
  • mobile phones which can be easily fitted to a wheelchair.

There is also a need for increased compatibility between adaptive devices and between adaptive devices and mainstream telecommunications equipment. Examples include: mobile phone incompatibility with hearing aids and, different headsets required for different phones.

“You should be able to use the same headset with any type of phone”.

The increasing number of automated services and procedures present difficulties for women with disabilities. For example, many women with disabilities need to utilise services such as Directory Assistance because they are unable to manage the standard telephone book. As one respondent to the survey stated:

“I can’t use the phone book because the entries are so small, the book is heavy, the pages are too fine and are hard to turn.”

Some women with disabilities therefore have no option but to use services such as Call Connect and/or Directory Assistance, yet are further disadvantaged by having to pay the costs associated with such services. For women with hearing impairment and/or memory difficulties, automated Directory Assistance can be a problem:

“Directory Assistance is now automated – if I cannot catch the number (due to hearing loss), I have to call back again – you can’t ask a machine to repeat!”

The proliferation of recorded messages is not only a frustration for women with disabilities but also presents a barrier to access:

“Button pushing is so hard for the disabled that (automated bill paying) must be seen as a form of discrimination.”

Queuing time in both government and private industry presents a similar difficulty. Telephone numbers containing eight or more digits present difficulties for many women with disabilities. Women with disabilities need bills (such as phone bills) to be understandable and the instructions to be in alternative formats.

It is clear that there is a general lack of awareness in society about disability issues. Given this, it is hardly surprising that women with disabilities experience ignorance and discrimination by telecommunications service providers. When experiencing telecommunications equipment problems, women with disabilities often return to the supplier of the service or equipment for assistance. Unfortunately, they very rarely receive a satisfactory response. All too often stonewalling, lack of understanding or outright poor staff attitudes make the process difficult. In too many cases, despite holding a Disability Support Pension, documentation is needed to substantiate eligibility to a product or service.

“They are completely ignorant about disability issues. They demand ‘proof’ which is usually about 6 different pieces, medical certificate etc. It is tiring and frustrating.” “They don’t understand the impact of multiple disabilities and associated problems.”

For women with disabilities, information about telecommunications equipment and services comes predominantly from networking with family and friends, from disability service providers or disability organisations. Very few women with disabilities are aware of the Telstra Disability Enquiry Hotline or the Australian Communication Exchange and the National Relay Service. There is also a lack of information for women with disabilities about carriers and Internet Service Providers. Women with disabilities have cited the need for more information about products and service available for them to use.

The need for the development and dissemination of telecommunications information is threefold. There is a need to develop information resources in accessible formats for women with disabilities about telecommunications issues, particularly information about services and products available for them to use, including complaints mechanisms. There is a need for telecommunications service providers to be better informed about telecommunications services and products available, particularly those for people with disabilities. And lastly, there is a need for telecommunications service providers to be better informed about disability issues and disability rights, including an understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Developing an understanding of the term ‘disability’ requires much more than just a definition of the sensory, physical, intellectual or psychiatric aspects. It involves an awareness and understanding of the ways that the dominant values and practices in our society operate to make having a disability an issue which affects a person’s image and their opportunities and choices in life.

“The (state name) Disability Service is a challenge. One has to be persistent to the point of rudeness. It took not only letters from my doctor and an audiologist report but my relatives’ constant telephoning to (carrier name) for me to get a volume control phone. The outcome was good but the procedure challenging.”

Telecommunications are vital for women with disabilities. They need to be accessible, affordable, acceptable and appropriate to women with disabilities. Women with disabilities must be actively involved in telecommunications research and in the design of telecommunications equipment.

“Telecommunications provide great opportunities for women with disabilities. They should be made much more accessible and affordable.”

“Telecommunications for women with disabilities are vital and should be regarded as a necessary service.”

“Providing telecommunications equipment to women with disabilities would facilitate their equal access to communication that all enjoy, and their full contribution to society.”



1. Subsidy for purchase, operating and maintaining telecommunications equipment and training courses in its use, should be available to all recipients of the Disability Support Pension, and to women with disabilities from low income backgrounds.

2. Subsidised training courses in basic on-line computing skills need to be made available to women with disabilities through a range of training providers, including commercial Internet Training Providers, Centrelink, Adult Education, TAFE.

3. Internet Service Providers should offer lower rates for recipients of the Disability Support Pension and Health Care Card holders.

4. Funding should be made available to peak disability organisations to conduct computer and Internet training courses for their members.

5. A study should be undertaken into the feasibility of establishing state based Telecommunications Equipment Recycling Banks for women with disabilities and women on low incomes.

6. Call Connect and Directory Assistance should be free to people with disabilities.

7. Mobile phone/standard phone bill subsidy should be made available to people with disabilities.

8. Telecommunications equipment should be exempt from Sales Tax for people with disabilities, particularly to recipients of the Disability Support Pension, and people with disabilities from low income backgrounds.

Equipment Design

1. Hand held equipment needs to be as light as possible and non-breakable. Push buttons need to be separated from each other, and carry large, legible numbers.

2. Designers of telecommunications equipment need training to raise awareness about the limitations which disabilities bring.

3. People with a range of disabilities, including women with multiple disabilities should be involved in the design and trialing of telecommunications equipment.

4. Builders, architects and city planners need training to raise awareness that keypads/coincard slot and under-bench access to public phones is essential. Placement of public telephones must be done with input from people with disabilities.

5. There needs to be a mobile phone designed which is able to be used by people with hand and co-ordination restrictions. Similarly, a mobile phone needs to be designed which is compatible with hearing aids.

6. People with disabilities need to be involved in reviewing adaptive devices and advising on ways to improve compatibility of telecommunications equipment, including adaptive devices.


1. Internet Service Providers who are offering Internet Training courses need to ensure that their training is accessible to women with disabilities. Internet Training Providers should ensure that software is available which enables blind and/or visually impaired women to access Internet training.

2. There needs to be an extension of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) to all service providers to cover the need for installation of a second phone line for people with disabilities who are otherwise isolated (eg: rural, remote and socially isolated).

3. A study should be undertaken into the feasibility of establishing state based Telecommunications Equipment Recycling Banks for women with disabilities and women on low incomes.

4. Public venues offering Internet access (such as Internet Cafes and public libraries) need to ensure accessibility for women with disabilities. This would include the need for accessible hours of operation, subsidised access rates, and accessible computers, venues and related equipment.

5. Instructions for telecommunications equipment (including adaptive devices) need to be provided in accessible formats including: in Plain English, on cassette tape, on disc, in braille, in large print. Printed instructions should include the use of diagrams.

Service Provider Responsibilities

1. Telecommunications Service Providers need to develop an awareness and understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Women with disabilities who are in receipt of the Disability Support Pension should not be made to provide additional ‘evidence’ of their disability in order to purchase services and/or products.

2. Government departments and private industry using recorded messages and processes, and queuing facilities need to incorporate an option for those people who are unable (for whatever reason) to access these methods.

3. Automatic account payment facilities need a business hours contact where details can be given verbally.

4. There needs to be an extension of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) to all service providers to cover the need for installation of a second phone line for people with disabilities who are otherwise isolated (eg: rural, remote and socially isolated).

5. Internet Service Providers who are offering Internet Training courses need to ensure that their training is accessible to women with disabilities. Internet Training Providers should ensure that software is available which enables blind and/or visually impaired women to access Internet training.

6. A national database of available telecommunications equipment and services for people with disabilities should be established and service providers should be trained in its use in order to ensure information given to people with disabilities is up to date and accurate.

7. Information about telecommunications equipment (including adaptive devices) and services needs to be provided in accessible formats including: in Plain English, on cassette tape, on disc, in braille, in large print. Printed information should include the use of diagrams where possible.

8. People with disabilities should be given priority in repair and maintenance schedules.


1. Funding should be made available to peak disability organisations to conduct computer and Internet training courses for their members.

2. Carriers and ISP’s need to acquaint retailers/technicians in the range of equipment available and adaptations to suit the needs of particular and multiple disabilities.

3. Telecommunications Service Providers need to undertake training to develop an awareness and understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

4. Telstra Disability Hotline staff should be required to undertake Disability Awareness Training as a requirement of their job.

5. Subsidised training courses in basic on-line computing skills need to be made available to women with disabilities through a range of training providers, including commercial Internet Training Providers, Centrelink, Adult Education, TAFE.

6. Internet Service Providers who are offering Internet Training courses need to ensure that their training is accessible to women with disabilities. Internet Training Providers should ensure that software is available which enables blind and/or visually impaired women to access Internet training.


1. Funding should be provided to enable the consideration and interests of women with all types of disabilities in the development of government and industry policy in relation to telecommunications. Women with disabilities must be adequately represented on forums such as the Australian Communications Industry Forum Disability Advisory Body, and the Australian Communication Authority Consumer Consultative Forum and their associated working parties.

2. Telecommunications product developers and service providers need to ensure people with disabilities are adequately represented on relevant Advisory bodies, management committees and so on.

3. People with disabilities need to be involved in reviewing adaptive devices and advising on ways to improve compatibility of telecommunications equipment, including adaptive devices.

4. People with a range of disabilities, including women with multiple disabilities should be involved in the design and trialing of telecommunications equipment.


1. Peak Disability Advocacy organisations should be funded to provide information in their Newsletters about Telecommunications equipment (including adaptive devices) services, and mechanisms for complaints.

2. Peak Disability Advocacy organisations should be funded to work with Telecommunications Service Providers to develop accessible and appropriate information for people with disabilities about telecommunications equipment and services.

3. Instructions for telecommunications equipment (including adaptive devices) need to be provided in accessible formats including: in Plain English, on cassette tape, on disc, in braille, in large print. Printed instructions should include the use of diagrams.

4. A national database of available telecommunications equipment and services for people with disabilities should be established and service providers should be trained in its use in order to ensure information given to people with disabilities is up to date and accurate.

5. Information about telecommunications equipment (including adaptive devices) and services needs to be provided in accessible formats including: in Plain English, on cassette tape, on disc, in braille, in large print. Printed information should include the use of diagrams where possible.

For more information on this Project, contact Carolyn Frohmader, WWDA Executive Officer on (02) 62421310 or via email on The full report is available from WWDA for $15.

Project Submission: Women With Disabilities and Telecommunications

Women With Disabilities Australia has recently submitted a funding proposal to the Commonwealth Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts for a project on women with disabilities and telecommunications. This project proposal has been developed in response to issues identified by WWDA members in the Telecommunications Survey WWDA conducted in January 1999.

The proposed Telecommunications Project WWDA has submitted to the Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts has three main components and these are:

  • to promote the consideration and interests of women with all types of disabilities in the development of government and industry policy in relation to telecommunications, by funding representation of women with disabilities on forums such as the Australian Communications Industry Forum Disability Advisory Body, and the Australian Communication Authority Consumer Consultative Forum and their associated working parties;
  • to undertake further research into the needs and issues of women with disabilities in Australia in relation to telecommunications by conducting a 6 month research project which incorporates both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, and gives consideration to the interaction between gender, disability and telecommunications;
  • to develop information resources in accessible formats for women with disabilities about Telecommunications issues, particularly information about services and products available for them to use.

For more information on this Project proposal, contact Carolyn Frohmader, WWDA Executive Officer on (02) 62421310 or via email on

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Scheme (TIO)

The TIO’s Role
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) Scheme is authorised to investigate certain complaints by residential and small business users of telecommunications and Internet services.The TIO is a free service to people who have been unable to resolve a complaint directly with their telecommunications carrier or service provider of Internet service provider. The cost of the Scheme is borne by carriers and service providers, who are required by law to be part of, and to pay for the Scheme, and who operated in one or more of the following areas:

  • supplying a standard telephone service;
  • supplying a mobile telecommunications service;
  • providing Internet access;
  • acting as intermediaries by reselling any of the above services.

How the Scheme Operates
The TIO aims to deal with your complaint speedily, in a fair, objective and non-bureaucratic way. The concept of fairness is central to everything we do. A Carrier or service provider must be given a reasonable opportunity to settle your complaint before we take it up. In this sense, the TIO Scheme is referred to as an ‘office of last resort.’ The TIO is an independent and non-profit organisation.

Jurisdiction of the TIO Scheme
Some Complaints cannot be dealt with by the TIO because they fall within the authority of the industry regulators such as the Australian Communications Authority and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. If we are not in a position to help you, we will advise on the most appropriate course of action you should take.

The TIO can only take on a case if:

  • you have given the carrier or service provider a reasonable opportunity to address the complaint;
  • the circumstances causing the complaint became known in the 12 months prior to the complaint being made. However, the TIO has discretion to extend the time limit a further 12 months in certain cases;
  • the complaint has been made in good faith;
  • the complaint is best handled by the TIO and not some other body;
  • the complaint type is within the TIO’s jurisdiction (see below).

Complaints we are authorised to investigate include:

  • the standard telephone service;
  • mobile services;
  • Internet access;
  • pay-phones
  • operator and directory assistance;
  • printed and electronic White Pages;
  • fault repair;
  • privacy;
  • land access;
  • breaches of performance standards under carrier or service provider Customer Service Guarantees and breaches of certain Industry Codes or Industry Standards.

Complaints can be made to the TIO’s office by the person with the problem or by someone authorised to represent the complainant. We cannot handle complaints concerning:

  • the setting of tariffs and charges; privately-owned telecommunications equipment (apart from the rented handset supplied with a basic phone service);
  • cabling, except cabling up to the rented handset;
  • business directories (for example, the BIG directories). However, we have an agreement with Yellow Pages to help resolve complaints;
  • matters of telecommunications policy;
  • the 000 emergency service;
  • anti-competitive behaviour or restrictive business practices;
  • the content of ‘information services’ eg. 0055, 1900 and the Internet.

Our Investigations Officers will be able to tell you if we can handle your complaint. If after an initial discussion, we cannot help you, we will try to suggest and alternative authority which can. The TIO, and those responsible for industry self-regulation need to be adaptable in the rapidly changing telecommunications environment. Our responsibilities, and the ways in which we carry them out, may be modified from time to time to take account of these rapid changes.

The Progress of a Complaint

The First Contact
When you phone the TIO’s office you will get through to one of our Investigations Officers who will be fully responsible for providing initial advice, personally looking after your case, and keeping you informed through the process. If the TIO takes up your case you will receive a letter confirming your details and setting out when you can expect to hear from us again.

Types of Complaints
A straightforward enquiry may be addressed immediately by phone, fax or e-mail. Sometimes we will inform the carrier or service provider of the details of your case and ask them to respond directly to you, or we will refer you to a higher level within the carrier or service provider.

Other more complicated matters proceed through the following stages.

The first stage is a Consultation. We request an answer from the carrier or service provider within 14 days. Most cases are resolved at the consultation stage.

If a satisfactory answer is not forthcoming within 14 days, the case may become a formal Complaint. Carriers and service providers are then required to respond within 28 days. Occasionally, even at first discussion stage, we may consider that your case requires detailed information or is complex enough to be regarded as a Complaint from the outset.

If a satisfactory response to a formal complaint is not received within 28 days, the case may be classified as a Dispute, and it is then handled personally by the Deputy Ombudsman. The TIO aims to ensure that most disputes are resolved within three months. Having taken on a case, the TIO will usually write to the company concerned, and ask for a response to your complaint within a strict timeframe.

Initially, depending on the nature of the complaint, the carrier or service provider might be asked to provide: testing of a line or equipment; billing or fault histories; customer service notes; relevant correspondence; and the carrier or service provider’s own view on the matter and how it might best be resolved. At the same time, you may be asked to provide similar documentation.

On receipt of the responses, a process of negotiation, conciliation or perhaps mediation might follow in an effort to come to a satisfactory settlement, with the TIO endeavouring to assist and bring the parties to a mutually acceptable resolution. During this time, depending on the type of complaint, there may be extensive technical testing, exchange of documentation, statutory declarations produced, third party records obtained and meetings conducted. Most cases are finalised without any need for face-to-face meetings. If the TIO considers that a meeting is necessary, the costs for long distance travel will normally be borne by the Scheme.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the TIO will send you a letter advising of the final outcome. This letter also provides details about how to have your case re-assessed by the TIO’s office if you are dissatisfied with the outcome.

Your Case

The essentials of a satisfactory complaint are a clear, straightforward presentation of facts, accurate records and a realistic and fair expectation of a satisfactory outcome.

We recommend that you:

  • keep copies of any payment transactions relating to your cade, and any letter written or received;
  • keep a note of the names of any carrier or service provider employees you may have spoken to and record the dates and key points of the conservation;
  • endeavour to go through all the complaint-handling channels offered by the carrier or service provider before you approach the TIO. This will save you time and help us provide a speedier and more efficient service;
  • be prepared to let us have certain details of your case in writing. (If you have any trouble doing this, please let us know);
  • as far as possible, collect evidence on the nature and extent of business you are losing, or have lost, as a result of a problem.

Achieving a satisfactory complaint outcome may require a compromise on one or both sides of the argument, but a resolution found in this way is almost better, less expensive and speedier than one found in the courts. However, the courts are always available as an independent course of action.

Powers of the TIO
After thoroughly investigating a case, the TIO may make a “binding direction” (up to a cost limit of $10,000) that the carrier or service provider:

  • provides a service or services
  • does not impose a charge
  • amends a charge
  • supplies certain goods or services
  • carries out, does not carry out or ceases some action;


  • determine that the carrier or service provider concerned pays compensation (the TIO has binding powers up to a limit of $10,000).
  • you will have 21 days to accept or reject the TIO’s direction or determination. If you accept it within that time you will be bound by the decision. You will be asked to release the carrier or service provider from any further claim.
  • in addition, make a recommendation to a carrier or service provider to compensate or take some other action to a limit of $50,000 (Carriers and service providers are not bound to act on a recommendation);

The TIO may also:

  • make a “finding of fact” in only those cases where the Ombudsman concludes that compensation payable is in excess of $50,000;
  • dismiss the complaint.
  • If the carriers or service providers reject the TIO’s recommendation, they will still be bound by the TIO’s determination up to the value of $10,000.

Philosophy and Management of the TIO Scheme
The TIO was established in 1993 with the purpose of providing free, independent, just, informal, and speedy resolution of complaints for residential and small business customers of telecommunications services. It is funded wholly by its members. Under the Telecommunications Act 1997, all carriers and eligible carriage service providers must be members of the scheme. The objectivity of the TIO’s complaint-handling service is maintained through its philosophy and the structure of its management and operational arrangements, as set out below:

  • The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has final authority to investigate and resolve complaints, supported by a Deputy Ombudsman.
  • An internal system of checks and balances aims to ensure that complainants are always given a fair hearing.
  • A Council with equal representation of industry, consumer and community interests, with an independent Chairman, has responsibility for general procedural and policy issues. It is unable to make decisions in relation to individual cases.
  • A Board, which is responsible for ensuring the funding of the scheme, is made up of member appointees.

The TIO respects people’s needs to conduct their affairs in private and operated vigilantly in accordance with the Information Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act 1988. The TIO aims to help keep the public informed about telecommunications issues; highlight carrier, service provider and industry policies or practices that are being raised as a cause for concern; and keep statistics and report on the types and sources of complaints and their outcomes.

Each of the TIO’s Investigations Officers specialise in a particular area, and this expertise is call on when needed to enhance the quality of service and client liaison, and to help achieve speedier resolution of certain cases.

An independent survey of people who have approached the TIO with an enquiry or complaint is in place. This contributes significantly to the on-going evaluation and effectiveness of the TIO Scheme. The TIO produces an annual report and a quarterly newsletter, “TIO Talks”. Copies of these, and additional copies of this booklet, are available through the TIO’s Office.

Contacting the TIO
Telephone: 1800 062 058 or 03 8600 8700
Mail: PO Box 276, Collins Street West, Melbourne Vic 8007
Fax: 1800 630 614 or 03 8600 8797
For hearing or speech impaired people a telephone typewriter (TTY) is provided on: 1800 675 692
For translator and interpreter services phone: 131450

WWDA Strategic Plan for 1999-2000

WWDA has recently developed its Strategic Plan for the 1999-2000 year. The Plan focuses on WWDA’s major goal areas and contains detailed key and continuing strategies, targets and timelines, resource implications, performance indicators and major outputs. A Summary of the major components of the Strategic Plan is outlined here.

Summary of WWDA Goals, Key and Continuing Strategies for 1999-2000

GOAL 1: To research, analyse and take action on issues of concern to women with disabilities falling within the policy priorities of WWDA, including: Violence (includes Sterilisation), Telecommunications (includes Information Technology), Leadership and Mentoring, Health, Ageing; Housing, Links to the women’s movement, and Organisational Development.

Goal Statement:
WWDA will continue to provide reliable and high quality input on issues of concern to women with disabilities. Any work done by WWDA will be thoroughly researched and documented. Data will be acquired through processes involving consultation with women with disabilities, other experts, service providers community organisations and secondary research sources. The issues WWDA researches will be in WWDA’s policy priorities. Specific projects will be taken up within these broad topics. Other issues will be considered should they arise due to newly developed government initiatives, media opportunities or other unforeseen circumstances.

Key and Continuing Strategies:

  • Conduct research; undertake analysis of research, develop reports, develop research based policy recommendations
  • Undertake consultation with women with disabilities, relevant services, government and non-government bodies, agencies and organisations.
  • Undertake regular planning and review process within the organisation.
  • Develop networks which support the WWDA priority areas.
  • Create debate and publicise research, reports, policies and projects undertaken by WWDA.

GOAL 2: To initiate systemic change activities in specific areas of concern to WWDA members: a) Undertake advocacy work in the area of violence against women with disabilities (including sterilisation); and b) Promote access to telecommunications (including information technology) for women with disabilities.

Goal Statement:
WWDA members have consistently identified that violence against women with disabilities is an area of major concern for them. With regard to illegal sterilisation of women with disabilities, WWDA is committed to advancing the debate, raising awareness of the issue, educating key stakeholders, and lobbying government to recognise that illegal sterilisation of minors is not only a criminal act but a violation of human rights. Women with disabilities in Australia have also identified the need to be included in the information technology revolution, particularly the Internet (WWDA 1997). Access to telecommunications is of major importance to women with disabilities in Australia.

Key and Continuing Strategies:

  • Further develop the WWDA Information Kit on Women With Disabilities and Violence.
  • Advocate for legislation, policy, services and organisations to be more responsive to women with disabilities who have experienced violence.
  • Conduct a project on the information and education needs of women with disabilities in relation to violence.
  • Publish and sell the WWDA Violence Against Women With Disabilities Workshop Report.
  • Implement where possible the strategies developed at the WWDA National Violence Workshop.
  • Continue to raise awareness of the issue of violence against women with disabilities.
  • Conduct a National Seminar on Sterilisation of Women with Disabilities in Australia.
  • Raise awareness of the issue of illegal sterilisation of women with disabilities in Australia.
  • Maintain the National WWDA Violence Reference Group and develop a National Women With Disabilities and Violence Network.
  • Develop networks and working relationships with organisations and services in the violence sector.
  • Implement the WWDA “Improving Access to Information Technologies for Women With Disabilities” Project.
  • Undertake a research project on Access to Telecommunications for Women With Disabilities in Australia.
  • Improve WWDA’s representation on Telecommunications Industry Forums and Consumer Advisory Bodies.

GOAL 3: To contribute to systemic change via representation on national committees, task forces and advisory bodies and by initiating systemic change activities.

Goal Statement:
WWDA will continue to contribute to systemic change via representation on many national committees, task forces and advisory bodies. WWDA will continue to provide a range of leadership and mentoring activities for its members to enable them to gain the confidence and skills to undertake representation activities.

Key and Continuing Strategies:

  • Provide representatives to Committees, Advisory Bodies etc that are in line with WWDA’s priority areas.
  • Participate in the National Caucus of Disability Consumer Organisations (NCDCO).
  • Promote leadership and mentoring opportunities for women with disabilities.
  • Ensure accountability of WWDA Committee representatives to the National Executive Committee and the broader WWDA membership.
  • Advocate for legislation, policy, services and organisations to be more responsive to, and inclusive of, women with disabilities.

GOAL 4: To continue to establish and support WWDA groups and national WWDA Networks around the country.

Goal Statement:
WWDA will continue to foster the establishment and development of State and Territory WWDA groups. This will assist in identifying and addressing the needs of women with disabilities at a local level, as well as strengthening and contributing to the growth of a strong, viable national organisation for women with disabilities.

Key and Continuing Strategies:

  • Continue to establish and develop WWDA branches in States/Territories and regional areas.
  • Further develop systems for regular and effective communication with State/Territory and Regional WWDA groups.
  • Work with State/Territory WWDA groups to assist them to become self managing through the processes of incorporation and self funding.

GOAL 5: To promote leadership skills of women with disabilities.

Goal Statement:
Leadership is a major issue for women with disabilities in Australia. Lack of training opportunities, employment and education mean that women with disabilities have few chances to develop leadership skills. In most states of Australia, education for women with disabilities is not compulsory. As an organisation, WWDA is very committed to promoting leadership and mentoring for women with disabilities in Australia. Enabling women with disabilities to acquire new knowledge and skills, and by providing them with opportunities for self-development and increased confidence, is one way WWDA can work towards achieving equality for women with disabilities in Australia.

Key and Continuing Strategies:

  • Implement the WWDA Leadership and Mentoring Project.
  • Conduct Leadership Workshops with women with disabilities in each State/Territory.
  • Encourage more WWDA members to become actively involved in the organisation particularly in the area of representation.
  • Promote opportunities for WWDA members to participate in WWDA activities.

GOAL 6: To increase the membership and public profile of WWDA.

Goal Statement:
WWDA will continue to raise its public profile amongst all sectors and levels of the community in order to increase the organisations membership and meet the needs of women with disabilities in Australia.

Key and Continuing Strategies:

  • Promote WWDA at local, regional, state, national and international levels using a wide range of methods including: dissemination of material and information on the organisation, its projects and activities; use of the media; presence at government & non-government events and forums; presence at public events and forums; representation on committees; publishing of articles in newsletters, journals etc.
  • Produce a high quality newsletter.
  • Develop and maintain a high quality WWDA Website.
  • Expand and further develop networks which support the WWDA priority areas.

GOAL 7: To further develop and improve the organisation so as to best serve WWDA’s membership and its aims and objectives.

Goal Statement:
WWDA is a relatively new organisation. Many of the organisational systems and structures are in place and functioning effectively and efficiently. WWDA will continue to develop and improve its organisation policies and procedures to reflect the growth and changing needs of the organisation.

Key and Continuing Strategies:

  • Undertake strategic planning processes.
  • Develop organisational and operational policies in line with relevant Service Standards, including: Disability Service Standards; National Mental Health Standards; Standards for Community and Other Primary Health Care Services (CHASP).
  • Develop models of best practice in WWDA’s main program areas of: organisational development; violence; information technology; leadership and mentoring; participation.
  • Conduct an Annual General Meeting of the organisation.
  • Continue to develop the roles and responsibilities of the National Executive Committee.
  • Establish links and partnerships with similar, relevant organisations.
  • Maintain the WWDA mailing list database.
  • Develop operational policies and procedures to guide the work of the organisation.
  • Develop information management systems which increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation.
  • Undertake a leadership role within the disability and women’s sectors by developing Standards to guide the work of peak disability and women’s organisations.

If you would like a copy of WWDA’s Strategic Plan for 1999-2000, please contact Carolyn Frohmader, Executive Officer at the WWDA National Office on (02) 62421310 or by email on

Women’s Rights Action Network First Australian Tribunal on Women’s Human Rights Melbourne May 21, 1999


In our community, many women are subject to violations of their human rights – women who work in their homes for $1.30 per hour; young women who are abused in their families; women and girls with disabilities who are illegally sterilised; lesbian couples who are denied access to services and legal protections or benefits heterosexual couples take for granted.

These issues, and other human rights abuses were highlighted in the Platform for Action which arose out of the 1995 United Nations World Conference for Women held in Beijing. Australia was a signatory to this Platform for Action, which identified critical areas of concern for women’s human rights which Governments needed to prioritise.

On May 21 1999, the Women’s Rights Action Network held the First Australian Tribunal on Women’s Human Rights. The Women’s Rights Action Network Australia (WRANA) is a national feminist human rights organisation comprising various non-governmental human rights and women’s groups, which was established in June 1998 to foster effective partnerships between women’s and human rights sectors.

At the Tribunal, 12 women living in Australia testified about their experiences, with testimonies being presented on the following issues: the sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities; Outworkers; Prisons; Income support and older women; the ramifications of sexual abuse in the family for young women; discrimination in the provision of housing; the decline of national machineries for indigenous Australians; issues raised by members of the Stolen Generation; discrimination against lesbian couples; Australia’s refugee determination process; and issues of domestic violence for women living in a rural area; and issues of domestic violence for women sponsored into Australia for marriage.

At the conclusion of the day a panel of experts in the human rights field, made recommendations to the Government and the community on the issues they had heard during the day. These recommendations will be included in a more extensive report which will be released in September 1999.

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) was fortunate to be represented at the First Australian Tribunal on Women’s Human Rights. The President of WWDA, Ms Vicki Toovey, presented case studies on the sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities. Vicki’s presentation has been reproduced here.

WRANA Tribunal Case Study – Sterilisation of Women With Disabilities – by Vicki Toovey, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)

“First of all I would like to make it clear that on this occasion I am speaking on behalf of other women. Women with Disabilities Australia is a feminist organisation which believes that women should be able to tell their own stories. We were concerned that the issues for women with disabilities may not be given a voice at this Tribunal. However in this particular matter it is very hard for women to speak up. There is the issue of confidentiality and privacy for many women and also that women may not be aware of the nature of the procedure which has occurred. There is enormous grief associated with the loss they have undergone. So at this time I am speaking on behalf of women with disabilities to give voice to their stories. I was able to interview two women who were willing to share their stories with me because they felt that the issue was so important and needed to be heard more widely and a greater understanding developed of what this issue means for women with disabilities. This is a privilege which I do not undertake lightly.

As feminists we have fought for the right to have information about our health, an understanding of our bodies and the right to make informed choices. The issue of sterilisation of women with disabilities goes to the core of all these matters and goes a step further – it adds the factor of discrimination.

In 1997 the then Federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner Ms Elizabeth Hastings released a report titled “The Sterilisation of girls and young women in Australia: A legal, medical and social context” by Susan M Brady and Dr Sonia Grover. In September 1998 Ms Hastings addressed the Annual General Meeting of Women with Disabilities Australia in Melbourne. We had asked if she would highlight issues that she believed that we should take up as the only organisation which specifically advocates on behalf of women with disabilities and provides leadership in this area. Elizabeth spoke passionately about the need for continued awareness of this issue of sterilisation of young women and girls. I quote extensively from this report as follows:

“The legal framework regulating sterilisation of children in Australia was set out by the High Court in Marion’s Case in 1992. It sought to ensure heightened accountability in decision making in an area where children are at significant risk of grave abuse of their fundamental human right to bodily integrity.” This meant that lawful sterilisation can only be carried out on any child with the specific authority of a court or tribunal such as the Family Court or a Guardianship Board. By “sterilisation” we mean a surgical intervention which results either directly or indirectly in the termination of an individual’s capacity to reproduce.” “Some sterilisation procedures (for example hysterectomy but not tubal ligation) eliminate menstruation..”

Sterilisation of women with disabilities is usually carried out “in the main as a response not to a clinical medical need but to disability. It reflects persistent negative attitudes towards fertility, menstruation and menstrual management in young women with an intellectual disability.”

The reasons given for proceeding with sterilisation are often with regard to management of menstruation, behaviour that may be thought to be associated with pre-menstrual tension, heavy bleeding and cramps, difficult social behaviour or emotional reactions to bleeding, alleviation of personal care tasks both for the young woman and her parents and carers, preventing pregnancy, reducing the need for education and information about fertility etc.

The issue of sterilisation brings into focus both the notions of consent and of discrimination. When can it be said that a woman has freely and in an informed way given her consent to a procedure if the woman’s self esteem is so low that she does “not believe that it would be right to bring another person into the world like me”, when her life is one of constant discrimination, denial of her worth and a limited view of her own potential.

Case Study 1
The first case study which I wish to present brings in both these notions and highlights the issue of when is choice really a choice. Maria (not her real name) is now a woman in her early 40s – she has a physical disability which in recent years has meant that she has used an electric wheelchair for mobility but for many years she has used a walking stick and a wheelchair and used such mobility aids to help her conserve energy and enable her to continue to live a full life. She has made informed choices about her use of mobility aids based on an understanding of her body and an understanding of what she wants to do and needs to do on a daily basis. Sometimes you want to conserve energy during the day to enable you to undertake a social activity in the evening for instance. Maria has made these choices and has managed her own care – that is she lives independently and has support for those areas of her life in which she feels she needs support. She is in part-time employment and is a passionate, thoughtful and intelligent advocate for the rights of people with a disability.

When you listen to Maria speak about her choices about her life as a woman of reproductive age you are confronted with a totally different picture. Her choices and experience in this area are at odds with the picture of her which I have drawn above.

In discussing the story of her reproductive choices Maria talks about “What was done for me and what was not done for me” and that “people did not protect me from myself”.

She says about how 25 years ago society’s attitudes to people with disabilities were even more discriminatory than they are now and that the supports for independent living, access to education and employment were severely restricted. It was not until Maria was in her mid to late 30s that she embarked on a period of self discovery.

“I started to look at my values as a person with a disability. By 37 I started questioning if I wanted children. I thought that I didn’t want children, I didn’t want another me. Why would I want to bring some-one else into the world that possibly had my attributes and in particular my attributes as a person with a disability. I protected my children from the cruel world by not having them. As I became more disability aware and valued myself as opposed to devaluing myself I wanted to think about having children.

I grew up in a normal household as a member of a family in a country town and participated in normal schooling activities. Then I was moved to the city and went to a Special School which was part of a specific disability provider service with ward style accommodation where I lived in and was receiving physiotherapy and treatment. It was like both a hospital and a home. From the age of 14 to 15 I had a great deal of physiotherapy treatment which included being in plasters to assist me to keep walking.

Before I was married I was sterilised at the age of 17 and half years.

The people who consented to this procedure were my mother and my fiance. My fiance was over 18. I didn’t object as such because why would I want to have children. I believed that people with disabilities were worthless and that they were a burden on people and society. I felt that if I produced a child with a disability I would be producing a “bad person”.

At the home I had taken on the very devalued attitudes about people with disabilities which were predominant. I had learned that children with disabilities are incompetent. Children without disabilities are competent and this competency is constantly reinforced whereas for children with disabilities it is incompetence that is constantly reinforced – you are not able to do this, you can’t do that. Later I came to understand this as “internalised oppression”. I was a very scared and angry person and totally denied my self as a person who was worthwhile.

I understood that I was having a tubal ligation. I can remember after the operation the doctor saying something to me – what he said was “I made very sure you wouldn’t get pregnant”. After this operation I stayed on the pill for menstrual management.

After my experience in the hospital/home I did not associate with disability issues for a very long time. I just didn’t want to have anything to do with it, it was something I just wanted to run away from and not be a part of.

My emotional self fragility led me to look for how I could help myself and I spent many years in therapy. I realised that I was dealing with many losses. Part of this dealing with loss was the issue of having children or not. I felt that I didn’t want children because I didn’t want another me.”

Maria started to question whether was she was a carrier of the disability.

She made an appointment to see a genetic counsellor at a major hospital – during the time between making the appointment and actually seeing the counsellor she continued her therapy. This was a big part of a period of self acceptance and greater self awareness particularly around disability issues. The genetic counsellor told her that there was no reason for her to have children with the same disability. He said he would access her medical records and find out for her what sort of tubal ligation had been done to explore the possibility of reversal of the procedure. What he found was quite different She was told it was not a tubal ligation that she had had but a different procedure which was not reversible.

On understanding this Maria realised that she had had even further denial of choice – that the surgeon who had done the procedure when she was not yet 18 had further limited her choice by using a procedure which as he had said to her would “make sure she didn’t get pregnant” and had given her no chance of reversal of this.

Maria said to me “what if an able-bodied woman of 17 had asked for this procedure to be done, even at that time, some 20 years ago, what would the reaction have been – they would have said no, this is not necessary and offered a range of choices.”

Case Study 2
Sterilisation procedures are performed most commonly on girls and young women with intellectual disabilities.

This is the story of a woman with what would be considered to be a mild to moderate intellectual disability. She is currently 37 years of age. She was sterilised at the age of 18. Her tubes were cut and tied in a procedure which she believes is not reversible. The procedure was done without her consent. She said that she was taken from the special accommodation in which she was living and just told she had to have an operation and that she did not know what it was about.

She believes that this was done because it was thought that she would be unable to look after children if she had any. She now claims to regularly provide care for her 4 nieces and 3 nephews. She says she was devastated by what happened and she has an enormous amount of grief about not having children. This issue is constantly a part of her life and she confronts it all the time such as when she sees other people with children as she goes about daily activities such as shopping.

She has a partner with whom she lives. They both live independently in the community and he has a full-time job while she receives a pension and does voluntary work with a disability advocacy organisation. She and her partner are talking about getting married and looking at the possibility of adoption of children.

The procedure which she underwent caused her to “suffer infertility, anxiety and nervous shock after the operation which was performed in 1980 when she was resident in a special accommodation unit.” The woman sued the hospital where the operation was performed claiming damages for negligence. In the case it was “alleged that she was taken to the hospital under duress and that the operation was performed without her lawful and /or informed consent. She claimed that the hospital failed to ensure that she understood the nature and consequences of the operation, including that it was irreversible and that consent was provided by some one who was not lawfully empowered to give it.”

In 1994 she was awarded a settlement of $90,000 from the hospital where the operation was performed in 1980.

The Bardy & Grover Report provides some very disturbing figures regarding the number of sterilisations which have been undertaken since the legal framework which was set in place in 1992.

Further work and research needs to be done in this area to follow up on the issues raised in this report. I quote from the summary as follows:

  • sterilisation may lead to a cycle of neglect and increase the likelihood that sexual abuse will go undetected.
  • there is no data to confirm that pregnancy is a significant risk in this population
  • there are no figures to substantiate fear of pregnancy in this population
  • the socio-political nature of issues relating to the sterilisation of young women with intellectual disabilities is illustrated
  • heightened accountability in decision making about the child’s best interests requires a coordinated, experienced and multi-disciplinary approach.
  • serious attention should be given to the array of services and support which may significantly enhance both the child’s quality of life and that of her parents, sibling and carers
  • sterilisation is not a solution for the scarcity of family support and resources.

These two stories highlight the complexities of the notions of consent, choice and discrimination. Women with disabilities have a right to bodily integrity, to make informed choices about their health and reproductive activity. The issue of sterilisation is seen by many as violence against women. It reflects society’s continuing inability to deal with the issue of sexuality and people with disabilities. It also reflects the need for support and care for people with disabilities and those who care for them. Support should be provided to enable independence in daily activities, to enable the management of menstruation, education to protect against unwanted sexual advances and both proper support and respite care for parents and carers.

At the centre of all of these issues is the continued need for action and awareness of people with disabilities in our community and our rights to full citizenship and participation in our society without discrimination.”

Sterilisation of Women and Girls With Disabilities – How You Can Help WWDA

As the peak organisation for women with disabilities in Australia, WWDA is committed to advancing the debate, raising awareness of the issue, educating key stakeholders, and lobbying government to recognise that illegal sterilisation of minors is not only a criminal act but a violation of human rights.

WWDA is currently developing a Position Paper and Policy Statement on Sterilisation of Minors. This paper is being researched and developed by a WWDA member. Once completed, the Paper will be made available on the WWDA website and in WWDA News.

If you have any information you can contribute to WWDA on this most important issue, please let us know. Personal stories, information on books, articles, references etc would be most welcome. Confidentiality is assured. Contact Carolyn Frohmader, WWDA Executive Officer on (02) 62421310.

WWDA’s Response to the Review of the National Women’s Non-Government Organisation’s Funding Program

In February 1999, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women (Senator Jocelyn Newman) announced a Review of the National Women’s Non-Government Organisation’s Funding Program, which is administered by the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women. Each year under the National Women’s NGO Funding Program, a total of $500,000 is available for funding national women’s organisations. WWDA does not currently receive funding under this Program, but has done in the past. WWDA prepared a detailed submission to this Review. WWDA’s submission covered a number of areas and issues including:

  • Eligibility for Funding
  • WWDA’s Stake in the National Women’s NGO Funding Program
  • Determining Outcomes for the National Women’s NGO Funding Program
  • Need for Three Year Funding Cycles
  • Need for the National Women’s NGO Funding Program to Recognise the Nature of Advocacy Work
  • Capacity to Generate Resources
  • Barriers to Efficient Financial Management
  • Ensuring diversity of women’s views are represented in the Funding Program

WWDA Project Submission: ‘A Model for Fostering Corporate Partnerships in Non-Government Organisations’

In March 1999, WWDA applied for funding to the Business and Community Partnerships Grants Program (Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services) to undertake a 2 year project on the development of a Model for Fostering Corporate Partnerships in Non-Government Organisations.

There will be four stages to the Project. All aspects of the project will be detailed in a Best Practice Business & Community Partnerships Resource Manual, which will be made available to both the business and non-government sectors. This Project will see take a leadership role and set the benchmark for fostering mutually advantageous partnerships between business and non-government organisations.

Stage One – Feasibility Study
The first stage will see a Consultant contracted to work with WWDA to undertake a feasibility study to determine the capacity of WWDA and other non-government organisations to engage in mutually advantageous partnerships with business. The study will include review and assessment of current operations and will identify areas where quality of operations may be enhanced in ways which promote the ability of WWDA (and other non-government organisations) to enter into corporate partnerships. This stage of the Project will include identification of the factors which facilitate the capacity of non-government organisations to develop partnerships with business.

Stage Two – Market Research to Identify Potential Partners
The second stage of the Project will involve market research to:

  • identify potential partners of WWDA and similar organisations;
  • determine the expectations of potential partners and non-government organisations;
  • assess where these expectations are mutually compatible between WWDA and potential partners;
  • where expectations are not mutually compatible, assess whether there is a process which can be undertaken to change these expectations;
  • where the expectations are found to be mutually compatible, identify what specific initiatives might assist in developing partnerships.

Stage Three – Development and Pilot of Model Marketing Strategy
The third stage of the Project will involve the development and pilot of a Model Marketing Strategy for fostering corporate partnerships in WWDA and other non-government organisations. The outcomes of the market research phase will inform the development of the Model Marketing Strategy. The Model Marketing Strategy will be trialed using WWDA as the pilot non-government organisation.

Stage Four – Development of Best Practice Resource Manual
The entire Project will be documented in a series of interim reports culminating in a Best Practice Resource Manual which will be promoted and made available to other non-government organisations. The Resource Manual will detail the processes used in each stage of the Project, and will include a Model Marketing Strategy for use by the non-government sector. The Resource Manual will be made available in a range of formats, including an Internet based version.

WWDA is currently awaiting announcement of successful applicants.

Australian Violence Prevention Awards

The annual Australian Violence Prevention Awards are sponsored by the Heads of Australian Governments – a joint Commonwealth, State and Territory initiative. They include monetary awards totalling $100,000. The awards are designed to reward the most outstanding projects for the prevention or reduction of violence in Australia, to encourage public initiatives and to assist governments in identifying and developing practical projects which will reduce violence in the community. Projects may address specific groups such as women, children, youth or the family, or specific problems such as excessive alcohol consumption, violence in the media or violence in sport. An award may also be available for initiatives of great merit or for outstanding projects which have recently ceased operation.

WWDA recently submitted an Application to the Australian Violence prevention Awards for the work WWDA has done over the last two years in the area of reducing violence against women with disabilities. Winners of the Awards will be announced later in the year.

The National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges in Aotearoa/New Zealand

The National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges in Aotearoa/New Zealand represents 48 women’s refuges in Aotearoa and has a national office based in Wellington. NCIWR lobbies on family violence issues, fundraises for refuges, negotiates the national contract with government and networks with other relevant community groups and agencies.

The National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges in Aotearoa/New Zealand was originally set up in 1981 by a group of 15 feminist refuges. Last year refuges worked with about 15,000 women and children. Our chief source of funding is from government, which meets about 26 % of our true costs. All our members are incorporated societies or charitable trusts.

Our philosophy is feminist-based and supports sovereignty for Maori (te tino rangatiratanga). Ten refuges are specifically run by and for Maori. Where the population warrants it, another refuge will provide services for non-Maori in the same area or a general refuge will provide services for both.

Our refuges have developed from mainly focussing on safe house accommodation to providing community services; support groups for women; specialist programs for children and rural outreach services.

We recognise that our services for women with disabilities are seriously inadequate. This is mainly a resourcing and training issue. The information from your organisation and the work you have done with refuges in Australia will help us develop our services in consultation with advocates for people with disabilities in Aotearoa.

Jacqui Lynch
Quality Assurance Program Manager
National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges Inc
Box 11074 Wellington New Zealand
Fax 006148025078
Ph 006148025079

Partnerships Against Domestic Violence – National Project on Violence Against Women With Disabilities

In November 1997, Heads of Government endorsed Partnerships Against Domestic Violence, a three year initiative between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories to work together towards the common goal of preventing domestic violence across Australia. Partnerships is concerned with building a strategic collaboration between the Commonwealth, States and Territories, in consultation with the community sector to test new approaches to domestic violence, to enhance and share knowledge and develop and document good practice in preventing and responding to domestic violence. It aims to do this by conducting a wide range of projects over the next three years designed to stimulate new developments as well as enhance existing programs.

Over the past 12 months, WWDA has lobbied the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence Taskforce on the need to address the issue of violence against women with disabilities. WWDA’s work in the area of violence has been recognised, with the Partnerships Taskforce announcing earlier this year that a national project on violence with disabilities was to be funded under the Partnerships Initiative.

The national project was advertised for public tender in May 99. The project will be in two stages and will aim to:

  • Improve access nationally to information about domestic violence for women with disabilities by developing and testing a range of information resources; and
  • Inform women with disabilities about domestic violence through a range of best practice models that can be flexibly delivered across various geographic locations.

The successful tenderer will be known in July 99. If you would like more information about the Project, or if you would like to be involved in this project, please contact Carolyn Frohmader, WWDA Executive Officer on (02) 62421310 or via email on

State and Territory WWDA Group Reports

Australian Capital Territory
The ACT WWDA group is fortunate in having members who are enthusiastic and with sufficient energy to complete good work. With their help we have been carrying out a survey of women with disabilities in the Territory to discover their unmet needs. We will then be in a position to plan a program focused on what women with disabilities in the ACT identify as their interests. Louise Bannister who is conducting the survey has prepared an article about the survey for this Newsletter. In addition we are preparing our funding submission for our next years program. All our future work will be guided by the survey results.

With our recent program Stress and Fatigue Management, and now our Women’s Lifestyle Needs, we are greatly extending our infiltration into this small but secret community of women with disabilities. There is great interest there but finding the people we want to help is not easy. However we are workig well with a number of women’s groups, both government and non-government in the ACT. We have no difficulty in identifying groups who will auspice us if we gain a grant.

We are now receiving more community contacts from people asking us to assist them in their work. By attending workshops and training sessions we keep our image high in the social justice sector. We are working with the Breast and Cervical Screening section of the ACT Government to increase the attendance of women with disabilities at their clinics.

I have begun mentoring a member of our group but all our work will be on hold until we have the report on the survey. I think one of the greatest problems for all groups is to develop effective communication networks with other disability organisations. We have given this a pretty good shake in distributing our forms. We noticed a greater interest from women when they recognised that we were not just another group of well meaning citizens but other women with disabilities. We look forward with interest to the work to come.

Di Palmer

In January, with the help of Healthpact funding, WWD(ACT) appointed a Project Officer, Louise Bannister, to design and implement a survey of disabled women living in the ACT region. It had come to WWD(ACT)’s attention that there was very little data on women with disabilities living in the ACT region. A preliminary survey would begin to address this. The survey also seeks to identify key issues of concern and shared interests of women in the community, enabling WWD(ACT) to better serve its members and the community.

Louise worked closely with the Steering Committee on the survey content. The survey was trialed in May by WWD(ACT) members, and their valuable input was incorporated into the survey. The final version of the survey was tested on five volunteers who were representative of a wide range of disability types and age ranges. Louise approached the owner of Tilley’s Divine Café in Lyneham, who agreed to donate a champagne breakfast for two as an incentive for people to return their completed surveys. Spicers Paper in Fyshwick kindly donated 10 reams of paper for the printing of the advertising flyer and the survey. The University of Canberra Printery provided a very fair quote for the production of the survey.

The University of Canberra also came to WWD(ACT)’s assistance for the final analysis of the survey. Dr Prvan from the School of Mathematics and Statistics kindly agreed to supervise a most capable third year student, Deborah, who is undertaking a general science degree. Deborah will undertake the analysis as part of her academic requirements. Data entry is being provided by Dr Prvan and analysis of the survey will be undertaken in June.

With substantial help of Sue Salthouse, publicity of the survey began. 1500 Flyers were distributed to key disability support groups, service providers and ACT government services such as Libraries, Medical Centres, Government Shop Fronts. Support groups were contacted and many agreed to include the survey in the mail out of their newsletters. Louise was invited to meet with the Post Polio Support Group, and they in turn agreed to do a special mail out of the survey. Sue tackled the press and radio stations with press releases. As a result The Chronicle did a piece about the Survey and the need for community support. Of the 1000 surveys printed more than 970 are currently out in the community. Return rate has been slow but steady, with just under 100 received so far but with a week to go before the official close we are hopeful of a late rush. The survey has 18 multiple choice and short answer questions. The survey is confidential and participants remain anonymous. Participants have the option of providing their name and contact details if they would like further information about WWD(ACT).

As an outcome of the survey results WWD(ACT) plans to hold community focus groups to discuss identified concerns. It is also planned to establish a peer support program for ACT women with disabilities.

Louise Bannister
Project Officer, WWD(ACT)

The Tasmanian Branch has been rather quiet in the last couple of months, which has been largely due to our members been involved with other organisations and projects therefore lacking the time and energy to devote to the group.

Ann Storr is still working on the Leadership and Mentioning Project for the national office; this project will be of great benefit to all of us on its completion, largely as an information kit for all of us to use.

I have been going to meetings and teleconferences for a government project looking into the various effects and requirements on and for people with disabilities when they look at retiring. This project has been a huge learning curve for me but I feel I have had useful input on this committee. I have had some concerns that some areas of disability have not been covered as well as they could have been, I have voiced some concerns in this area. The completed Consultants report is due to by the end of June 1999. It is hoped it will be used by those government departments and those working in the field of retirement to have some understanding of the difficulties that may be experienced by people with disabilities as they approach leaving the workforce.

Like all the other states we have been having discussion with other more established organisations to be able to house the computer that will be available for each states use. This is a new and exciting project and we hope make those of our members who are not computer literate will enjoy the prospect of leaning a new skill.

Sue Large

Western Australia
Hi from Western Australia. We are almost half way through the year and time is quickly passing us by. Some of our indigenous women applied for and obtained a grant for a few of us to do folk art lessons for a year. We have been extremely industrious creating all types of folk art designs, on all sorts of things which of course, we intend to sell to raise money.

Unfortunately our funds are a little low at the moment therefore we need some money. Our next project is to find some funding. Any suggestions? If anyone out there knows of anyone who needs our help and support, just contact us.

Maria McGrath

It is with much pleasure (and some frustration) that I m able to inform the wider WWDA membership that a small Brisbane-based WWDA group has started in Queensland. Our first meeting was held on 5 December 1998 to celebrate the International Day of People With A Disability. At this meeting a small celebration was held to signify the start of the group and intense discussion was had about what the group might look like and things it may achieve.

Since then we have had another meeting and discussed issues such as the possibility of having a strategic planning day to discuss things such as: setting parameters for the group, getting a mission statement, and ensuring representation across the entire State. We also discussed ways of generating membership and some possible social events for the group. Some ideas for topics of possible information/social gatherings included:

  • Body image;
  • Discrimination;
  • Domestic Violence;
  • Employment;
  • Exercise and Fitness;
  • Health;
  • Holiday Travel;
  • Workplace Issues.

Since that second meeting, the Queensland branch of WWDA had a presence at the Brisbane Rally for International Women’s Day on 6 March 1999. As the Queensland State representative I was asked by the International Women’s Day organising committee to give a speech on the effects of the GST on women with disabilities. The speech I delivered was very well received and got some media coverage and I was told “put women with disabilities on the map as a force to be reckoned with”.

We have managed to secure the skills of Lesley Chenoweth, a University lecturer in social policy and an experienced group facilitator for our Strategic Planning Day. The only problem with this is that I have been hospitalised twice for extensive periods in the last couple of months, and as our group is in the very early stages of forming, it has been virtually impossible to organise and set a date for this strategic planning. Hopefully, by the next time I write a State report, we will have had this strategic planning day and be a lot further down the track in terms of being a formalised group.

This is about all I have to report, except to say that it has been a turbulent couple of months and as a relatively new State representative and WWDA NEC member, I would appreciate any advice that other state reps may have regarding establishing a State group.

Karin Swift

The network continues to concentrate its efforts in a number of key areas and collective members have share responsibility to network and co-ordinate specific task groups to ensure our efforts are most effectively placed.

The Newsletter
A small grant of $700 has been received from the Department of Human Services in previous years which has assisted us in distribution of the newsletter. This year we have not received notification of a grant but continue to provide a newsletter for our 250 members until the production costs are beyond our means. The newsletter provides an opportunity and often the only means for many women to stay in touch with the network around Victoria.

Women with Disabilities and Violence
Lindy Corbett and Keran Howe have represent VWDN on the Woorara Working Group, a committee representing women with disabilities and the domestic violence services sector which is responsible for supporting Woorara Women’s Refuge in implementing their Disability Action Plan. As part of this implementation, the working group has taken responsibility for raising awareness of violence against women with disabilities within the domestic violence sector and to government. A proposal for a project to address issues for women with disabilities experiencing violence has been submitted to the Victorian Department of Human Services and is awaiting notice of the outcome.

The Book Club
Janny Hall, Di Temby, Lesley Hall, Glen Tomasetti and Margaret Cooper have worked together to a series of books of women’s experiences of disabilities. The book is now in the editing phase and the group is seeking funds to publish it. The book is the result of the effort of a number of women who attended a series of workshops in developing the writing skills they require to tell their own story.

International Conference on Women’s Health
Di Temby and Keran Howe will be representing women with disabilities at the International Interdisciplinary Conference on Women’s Health in Edinburgh in July. Di will be presenting a paper on Women with Disabilities and Ageing and Keran will be presenting a display of the findings of the Woorara DDA Action Plan.

The WWDA State and Territory groups are always looking for new members and also for donations, whether financial or in kind support. All of WWDA’s State and Territory groups are unfunded and operate purely on a voluntary level. So, if you can help in any way, or would like to become a member of your State/Territory group, please contact Carolyn at the National WWDA Office. WWDA is also eager to develop networks and branches of the organisation in regional and rural areas of Australia. If you are interested in starting a local group of WWDA in your area, please contact us. We are also seeking women with disabilities who are available to represent WWDA at various forums, committees, advisory bodies etc, as well as helping us in other ways such as commenting on WWDA documents and reports; presenting papers at Conferences; writing articles for WWDANews and so on. Please contact us if you can help out.

Carolyn Frohmader
WWDA Executive Officer

Electronic Mailing Lists for Women With Disabilities

What are Electronic Mailing Lists?

Electronic mailing lists provide forums for Internet users to participate in discussions or receive information on thousands of topics. The software responsible for the management and distribution of these mailing lists to thousands of subscribers are commonly called “list servers”. A list server automatically distributes an e-mail message from one member of a list to all other members on that list. However, not all list servers are the same. There are different varieties of list server software that allow a user to create and manage mailing lists.

Digests, electronic journals, announcements, and discussion groups are some of the types of content that are delivered through the thousands of lists available on the Internet. When you subscribe to a list, your name and e-mail address is automatically added to the list. You will receive a standard letter of welcome (via e-mail) telling you about the list. From that time on, you will receive all mail (postings) sent to the list by its members. You may follow the discussions or join in on them. If you respond, you can send your response to the list (in which case, all members of the list will receive it), or to an individual on the list. You can signoff (unsubscribe) from a list at any time. You can also get a listing of all the members of a list and their e-mail addresses.

More information about electronic mailing lists can be found at:

You can also search CataList, the official catalog of LISTSERV lists at:

Electronic Mailing Lists for Women With Disabilities
The following lists are just some of the lists that may be of interest to women with disabilities.

Description: OZADVOCACY is an information dissemination and discussion list for people interested in disability rights in Australia. The focus of the list is Australia-specific: Australian events, issues and legislation. The list is open to all.
Web page:
To subscribe: Send E mail to:
In the body of the message (no subject line is required) type: SUBSCRIBE OZADVOCACY firstname lastname

List name: California – Women’s International Linkage on Disability
Description: Cal-WILD (California – Women’s International Linkage on Disability) is a free international e-mail list service for women with disabilities and women allies.
To subscribe: Send an e-mail message to: In the subject type “subscribe”. In the body of the message include: your e-mail address, and let us know that you’re female.

List name: Living with a Challenge
Description: Living is a list designed for lesbian and bi women who identify with a disability, and for the women in their lives. It is not limited to women in wheelchairs but is meant to a support list for women to talk about any sort of physically challenging situation that they are living in at the moment, be it temporary or permanent.
To subscribe: Send email to:
Leave subject line blank, and in the body of your email type (only): subscribe living firstname lastname

List name: Girlies Discussion List
Description: Girlies Discussion List’s purpose is to provide a place for support and discussion for young females, ages 15 to 25, with disabilities from any background, sexual orientation, race, or religion. Girlies is a “monitored” list.
List owner: Jen Panattoni and Priscilla Wong
Web page:
To subscribe: Go to website:

List name: QueerLadies
Description: QueerLadies is a list for lesbian, bisexual and transgendered women with disabilities of all ages. QueerLadies is a “monitored” list.
List owner: Jen Panattoni
Web page:
To subscribe: go to website:

List name: ParentEmpowerment
Description: This list is for parents who have physical disabilities, or people with disabilities who wish to become parents. Topics include independent/accessible parenting, reproductive health issues for persons with disabilities, and societal perceptions of disabled parents.
Web page:
To subscribe: Send email to:
In the body of the message, type: SUBSCRIBE ParentEmpowerment

New Disability Journal ‘Access’ – The National Journal for People With A Disability

Access is a new disability journal published by the Disability Employment Action Centre (DEAC) – a community based organisation funded by the federal government. Access is published bimonthly and it presents a series of cutting edge articles with a focus on disability, employment, education, the law, regional and international news, technology, events and resources for people with a disability. For example:

  • what are employers’ views on hiring people with a disability?
  • what are the new trends in the labour market?
  • what challenges and opportunities do educational institutions face in the provision of quality education on the cusp of the new millennium?

Professionals with expert knowledge and people with a disability will provide their insights into current trends and issues to keep readers fully informed. Subscriptions are $25 per annum for six issues about 40 pages each. A concessional subscription at $15 is offered to unwaged individuals. An audio version of Access is also available. To subscribe please send your name and address with a not negotiable cheque to:

Access Subscriptions
Floor 8, 55 Swanston St, Melbourne, Vic 3000
For further information about Access, contact:
Disability Employment Action Centre
8th Floor, 55 Swanston Street
Melbourne 3000 VIC
Ph: (03) 96502533 Fax: (03) 96508642 TTY: (03) 96509229

Book Reviews

Activism and the Policy Process
Edited by Anna Yeatman
Published by Allen & Unwin Ph: (02) 84250100
Price: $29.95

Activists – protecting rainforests, demanding increased childcare, developing local community housing, campaigning for AIDS funding or protecting consumers – are as much part of the political landscape as the media, parliament, peak industry groups, political parties or trade unions. This collection explores the idea of policy activism and its relationship to the processes that not only set but implement and deliver the policy agenda. Policy activists operate both inside and outside government. They include community-based organisers, activist bureaucrats, service providers and professionals. Policy activism has been barely explored in existing literature. This collection puts the idea on a map. It is an innovative contribution to the literature, using case studies across a broad range of policy areas. Most of the contributors are seasoned policy activists as well as being either professional policy analysts or academics. The editor of this collection, Anna Yeatman, is a well-known contributor to contemporary political theory, among whose books are a seminal collection of essays on the interaction between social movements and the Australian state, Bureaucrats, Technocrats, Femocrats.

Health Policy in the Market State
Edited by Linda Hancock
Published by Allen & Unwin Ph: (02) 84250100
Price: $39.95

At a time on increasing demands on budgets, governments around the world are seeking to reduce health expenditure and introduce market-oriented reforms to the health sector. This is leading to profound shifts in the relationship between the state and the individual, as policy makers dismantle the welfare state and move towards a user-pays system. This important book offers an overview of health policy in Australia, locating it within the broader context of power and interests analysis and shifts in government policy and public sector restructuring. It outlines the key issues in current health policy and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of specific policies and programs. Contributors include Ian Anderson and Maggie Brady, Mary Draper, Stephen Duckett, Liz Eckermann, Sophie Hill, Sharon Moore, Michael Muetzefeldt, Janine Smith and Beth Wilson. Health Policy in the Market State is a valuable resource for students, as well as a comprehensive reference for health professionals and policy-makers.

The Good Research Guide – for Small Scale Social Research Projects
By Martyn Denscombe
Published by Allen & Unwin Ph: (02) 84250100
Price: $39.95

This book is written for undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students in business studies, social sciences, health studies and education who need to undertake research projects as part of their studies. It offers a practical approach which is particularly suitable for those who are interested in how to use research methods for a specific piece of small – scale research and for whom time is extremely limited. Such ‘project’ researchers can avoid elementary errors in the design and execution of their research by using the checklists which highlight crucial factors associated with the production of good social research.

Key features of the Good Research Guide include:

  • Clear identification of the range of methods and their respective advantages and disadvantages.
  • Practical guidance on how to use the methods.
  • Checklists to help researchers evaluate their methods and avoid fundamental errors.
  • Clear and jargon – free style.
  • Attractive presentation with plenty of useful lists and summaries, text boxes and key points.

Martyn Denscombe is Professor of Social Research at De Montfort University. He graduated in sociology and then qualified as a teacher at the University of London (Goldsmiths’ College). He has a PhD from the University of Leicester for research on the social organisation of teaching and his current research is on perceptions of risk and the health – related behaviour of young people.

Knowing the Social World
Edited by Tim May & Malcolm Williams
Published by Allen & Unwin Ph: (02) 84250100
Price: $45.00

This ground-breaking and multi-disciplinary book brings together a distinguished team of leading thinkers to discuss issues surrounding and informing questions such as: what is the ‘social world’, in what ways can we ‘know’ it, and how can our findings be validated? These issues are discussed in an accessible way, including the relationship of philosophical and research issues to each other; the nature of social reality, properties that may be ascribed to the social, research accounts and rhetorical ‘persuasion’, and the relations between ‘gender and knowing’. The overall concern of the book is to clarify how and in what ways we can claim to know the social world and what implications and consequences this may have for social scientific practice. For too long philosophers, social theorists and methodologists have talked past each other, often unaware of the mutually beneficial insights that each offers the other. This book is intended to contribute to a more constructive encounter and dialogue in order to advance understanding of the problems and possibilities surrounding the quest to know the social world. With this overall aim in mind, it will be essential reading for students and researchers in the social sciences.

Reforming the Public Sector – Problems and Solutions
Edited by Colin Clark & David Corbett
Published by Allen & Unwin Ph: (02) 84250100
Price: $29.95

The last decade has seen dramatic changes in the public sector as political, technological, social and cultural developments have had varied and often far-reaching impacts. The pressure on public sector management is unlikely to slacken. In a new and changing environment, new solutions are expected for new and old problems. In Reforming the Public Sector the reader will find out how public sector managers have found solutions to four kinds of problems: Managing people; improving service to clients; managing money; and leading organisations. These solutions are actual real-life examples; the authors of each chapter are practising managers or commentators with practical experience of the problems under consideration. Many of the case studies presented relate to the experience of the public sector in Victoria, the state recognised as a leader in public sector reform. Others come from wider afield – the federal public sector and those of New Zealand and the United Kingdom. This book achieves its purposes by proposing to students, academics and practitioners that they think along policy analysis and case study lines – not only in analysing the cases included but also in reflecting on the circumstances in their own organisations.

Cyberfeminism – Connectivity, Critique and Creativity
Edited by Susan Hawthorne and Renate Klein
Published by Spinifex Press Ph: (03) 93296088
Price: $24.95

An international anthology by feminists working in the field of electronic publishing, electronic activism, electronic data delivery, multimedia production, virtual reality creation, developing programs or products electronically, as well as those developing critiques of electronic culture. This collection explores what the possibilities are for feminists and for feminism. It also grapples with the pitfalls of the medium. The book, however, does not assume that the technology in itself is negative, but rather how it is used is open to critique. This leaves open the possibility of feminists having an impact on the way the technologies develop. The book includes connecting HTML with poetry, developing resources for Women’s Studies and libraries on-line, and CD-ROM and VRML developments. The book has markets across trade and educational sectors and could be used at secondary and tertiary levels.

Pain – Theory, Research and Intervention
Edited by: Sandra Horn and Marcus Munafo
Published by Allen & Unwin Ph: (02) 84250100
Price: $45.00

Psychology has made an enormous contribution to the understanding of pain and its phenomena, mechanisms, and treatments. This book explores and integrates current research in key areas of pain and pain management from a psychological perspective, and places recent developments in an historical context. The experience of pain cannot be captured in physiological terms, and treatments based on physical models are often inadequate. This book explores the multidimensional nature of pain mechanisms, including the roles of past experience, culture and personality, and considers the implications for research and treatment. The approach is primarily theoretical, but with a significant emphasis on clinical practice and application. This balance is often lacking in comparable texts, and is enhanced by the professional and research background of the authors. This clear and approachable text includes self-contained chapters that can be regarded as units of study and a unified glossary of terms completes the package. It is designed to provide a key resource for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate courses in health psychology, clinical psychology and social psychology as well as students and practitioners in health and social welfare.

Sandra Horn is Course Director of the MSc in Health Psychology at the University of Southampton. She is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist and a Chartered Health Psychologist with a background in multidisciplinary pain management and rehabilitation, and has written a number of self-help books including one on drug-free pain relief. Marcus Munafo is a researcher in the Psychology Department of the University of Southampton. His research interests are in the area of post-operative pain management and intra-operative cognitive functioning.

Oxford Australian Feminism – A Companion
Edited by: Barbara Caine
Published by Oxford University Press
Price: $79.95

This book covers feminist theory, politics and scholarship, feminist involvement in many facets of government and welfare, and feminist approaches to culture and to daily life. It provides both general and specialist readers with information concerning every aspect of the development of feminism in Australia. The distinctive features of Australian feminism, including its diversity, its engagement with the state, its openness to new ideas, and its connections with ideas and developments overseas, are fully explored. The first part of the book comprises analytical essays dealing with the nature of Australian feminism, its changes over time, and its connections with a whole range of women’s social, cultural and political experience. The importance of feminist ideas and initiatives in social and legal reforms are fully discussed, as is the current situation of Australian women in many different areas: the economy, political life, social policy, the judicial system, education, health, sport and culture. Also discussed are the diverse ways in which feminist aims and ideas have been expressed: in literature, art and film as well as in political texts.

Biographical entries document the lives and achievements of those who have been engaged in campaigns or activities designed to empower women or to improve their status and situation. Those women whose contributions were made in the arts are included along with those who were active in the social, legal, medical, scientific, political and environmental spheres. Aboriginal and migrant women are included with Anglo-Australian women. All major publications and organisations concerned to redress the problems and injustices faced by women, including philanthropic and educational organisations and publications, are described and analysed, as well as those directed towards political, social, and cultural goals. The Oxford Australian Feminism – A Companion, contains a chapter on Women and Disability, written by a WWDA member, Ms Helen Meekosha from the University of New South Wales.

Upcoming Events

29-31 March 2000
Share the Care
2nd International Conference on Caring
Carers Association of Australia
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane Australia.

This international Conference will provide presenters and participants with the opportunity to challenge accepted practice and put forward innovative ways that governments, consumers and societies can meet the needs of carers. The Conference provides a forum for service providers, bureaucrats, politicians and researchers to debate and exchange ideas and build networks. Calls for abstracts of papers close on 31 August 1999. Enquires to: Conference Solutions: Telephone: 02 6285 3000; Facsimile:02 6285 3001; Email:

4-5 August 1999
Isolated Children’s Parent’s Association of Australia Inc
Annual Federal Conference
Katherine High School Gym, Katherine, NT
Contact: Conference Convenors: Mrs Roz Nimmo, Tel/Fax (08) 8964 5558;
Mrs Heather Elliott, Tel/Fax (08) 8971 3264

12-14 August 1999
Common Threads -1999 National Autism Conference
Wrest Point Convention Centre, Hobart, Tasmania
For further information contact: Conference Design, Hobart
Tel (03) 6224 3773; Fax (03) 6224 3774

26-28 August 1999
3rd Australian Cystic Fibrosis Conference
The Masonic Centre, Sydney
Program includes international CF experts together with Australian CF specialists in the medical/scientific and allied health field discussing the latest advances in the treatment of Cystic Fibrosis. Contact: Cystic Fibrosis Australia, North Ryde, NSW; Tel (02) 9878 5250; (02) 9878 5058

23-26 September 1999
A Future with Purpose-A Future with Choice
11th International Conference on Hydrocephalus & Spina Bifida, Sheraton Perth Hotel, Perth
Hosted by The Spina Bifida Association of Western Australia. For further information contact: Conference Secretariat, Petrie International, Kalamunda, WA; Tel (08) 9257 2088; Fax (08) 9257 2099

28-30 September 1999
Technology for Life: Education, Work, and Leisure
ARATA 1999 – Fourth Australian Conference on Technology for People with Disabilities.
Venue: The Masonic Centre Sydney, NSW; Contact Raelene Smith, Conference Convenor; Tel (+61 2) 9890 0100; Fax (+61 2) 9683 2827.

21-23 October 1999
ACCESS EXPO 99 – Disability & Aged Care Solutions
Venue: Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
Contact: Paraplegic & Quadriplegic Association of Victoria, Collingwood, Vic; Tel (03) 9415 1200; Fax (03) 94151222

2-7 July 2000
Hearing Together Tomorrow – 6th International Congress of Hard of Hearing People
Sydney Hilton Hotel
Contact: HOH Congress Secretariat, GPO Box 128 Sydney, NSW, 2001; Tel (02) 9262 2277 Fax (02) 9262 3135

9-13 July 2000
19th International Congress on Education of the Deaf, in conjunction with the 7th Asia- Pacific Congress on Deafness, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney
Contact: ICED 2000 Secretariat, GPO Box 128, Sydney, NSW 2001; Tel (02) 9262 2277 TTY (02) 9248 0868 Fax (02) 9262 3135

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WWDA News is:
Edited by Carolyn Frohmader
Written by Carolyn Frohmader