Violence Against Women With Disabilities Is A Huge Issue In Canada

The #MeToo movement has been going strong, but when we talk about women’s rights one area often neglect is disabled Canadians.

A recent report from Statistics Canada found that found the rate of violent victimization of women in the able-bodied population totalled 65 per 1,000 people, the figure for disabled women more than doubled to 137 per 1,000.

The report also found that 29 in 1,000 women overall reported surviving a sexual assault, but the number jumped to 56 per 1,000 for disabled women. Women with a cognitive or mental health condition were at even greater risk with their rates of victimization at 121 and 131 per 1,000 respectively.

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While any violence or sexual assault against women is unacceptable, these numbers show that there is a huge part of the issue that is not being acknowledged.

Sarah Jama is a disability justice activist and said in an interview with Metro Newsthat part of the problem is how society views women with disabilities.

“(The disproportionate risk is) not talked about because we’ve been socialized to see disabled women as not sexual, or (as) childlike, especially if you have an intellectual disability,” said Jama. “There’s a lot of shame around that for women with disabilities.”

Accessibility policies in Canada unfortunately do not address violence or women. As a result, when we talk about violence against women, we don’t focus attention on women with disabilities.

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Something to keep in mind as well is that women with disabilities are the largest, poorest minority group in the world. A large part of this has to do with lack of employment opportunities.

According to a recent Canadian study, people with disabilities are more likely to hold low-skill, temporary jobs. This not only means lower wages, but more workplace hazards are more likely to face inadequate occupational health and safety (OHS) protections.

Disability rights are human rights, and as Canadians we need to do more to make sure this population no longer has to fear violence or discrimination.


Disability Rights Need To Be Addressed In The Workplace According To Study

Although many employers are encouraging diversity in the workplace, there is one group who continues to be ignored when it comes to human rights in the workplace.

In 2012, just around four million ‘working-age’ Canadians identified themselves as disabled – covering everything from visible disabilities such as being in a wheelchair to invisible disabilities such as a mental health issue.

And a recent study has found that half of Canadians believe ‘it’s understandable if an employer thinks it’s too risky to hire someone with a physical disability.’

The survey was done by the Angus Reid Institute and the Rick Hansen Foundation. The study also found that Canadians vastly underestimate the number of disabled people in the population.

“There seemed to be a split intuitively between how people were thinking about disability and where sometimes we thought we were,” said Mr. Hansen about the need for this new survey by the Globe and Mail. “I am always asked everywhere I go, ‘So, how accessible is Canada?’ ‘What are Canadians thinking?’ And so the notion started to emerge that we needed to do more research on this issue ….”

Hansen said advocates for disability rights must now ‘tackle the business world.’

This is an issue in Alberta as well, with 80 per cent of all complaints made to the

Robert A. Philp, Queen’s Counsel for the Alberta Human Rights Commission falling under unemployment.

Thirty four per cent of those complaints fell under physical disability and 16 per cent under mental disability.

“Employers have people in their workforce with disabilities whether they acknowledge it or not,” said Alexi Davis, a senior manager at Prospect Human Services for Disability Employment.

“So being intentional about fostering strategies in a culture and policies that support your employee base that already exists and opening to potential talent as you recruit … really strengthens your workforce,” she explained.

According to an article in the Financial Post one of the most important things an employer can do is have an ‘open-door policy’ to discuss disabilities and job seekers and employees must feel supported and safe in sharing their disability.

If you are part of a union, reaching out to a shop steward or business agent is also an option those with disabilities can take. These representatives from the union are there to make sure your human rights are respected in the workplace, which includes not having to face discrimination due to a disability – visible or non-visible.

With more studies and attention been drawn to disability and accessibility rights in the workplace, advocates are hoping that the high unemployment rates of those with disabilities will begin to decrease.

Disability rights are human rights, and all Canadians need to be more aware of that fact.