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Women and Disability

Physical Disability

Physical Disability

Being a college student with a physical disability can be very challenging depending on the university, and the disability. Though many Americans are affected by physical disabilities, there is little understanding of the feelings and concerns of the disabled among the population as a whole. Care should be taken before choosing a college to examine that college's accessibility. Perhaps there is a small handicapped population, perhaps the campus is particularly steep, or places are widely separated and transportation is limited. If the buildings, even residence halls are old, they may not have elevators. Some campuses will simply be inherently more difficult to roam than others. Yet, other schools are gaining reputations for being particularly good environments for those with a physical difficulty. These schools may have clubs and organizations, even athletic teams for the disabled, or they may simply be very easy to navigate and be widely accessible. Some campuses even offer programs and courses in Disability Studies. It is important for students with a physical disability to be in close contact with the various offices and services at whatever college they choose, in order to ensure that they are able to do all of the things, and go all of the places possible.

Twenty-six million American women live with disabilities, varying conditions that make these roles even more challenging because of physical and mental limitations. Various diseases and conditions produce some form of disability, and a number of them disproportionately affect women.

In general, the severity of a disability is described in terms of how that disability limits one's daily activities. Women are more likely than men to be limited in the amount or kind of major activity they can perform. However, disability rates for both sexes increase as age increases. Depending on the source, the word disability is defined in different ways. One definition is:

(1) any physiological disorder, or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal , special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, and endocrine.

Some of the challenges faced by women with disabilities include:

  • physical barriers, such as architectural barriers and lack of adequate transportation and support services to keep appointments, run errands, or receive medical care
  • financial restraints
  • lack of reliable health information and services that address their needs

When people enter college, they need to readjust to a whole new way of living. For people with disabilities, it might be even more of a challenge. For people with physical disabilities, it is disorienting to come to a new environment and not know which facilities are accessible, as well as the layout of the campus. They need to find out if the pathways are accessible, if the general layout of the campus is hilly or flat, and if there are dorms that are accessible to them.

In addition, universities need to be sensitive to their needs. Colleges should evaluate not only the residence of the person with a physical disability, but also examine whether or not other residential facilities are accessible for the individual to visit.

Often times, people with disabilities are very skilled at developing compensatory strategies and fantastic at problem solving. For people with cognitive disabilities, there are many barriers to overcome because these disabilities (particularly learning) have been diagnosed rather recently.

For those interested in more information regarding disability, the following links provide resources, detail the laws regarding accessible, and supply various statistics.

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Guide to disability rights laws

Women with disability

Sources of disabiltiy statistics

Educate yourself about disability issues

National Organization on Disability

Information regarding everything from housing, the media, and technology for people with a disability

Resources form the National Council on Disability

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research

College services and resources

A cornucopia of disabilty information

President Bush's new Freedom Initiative

More on new Freedom Initiative

Disability and Employment from the US Dept. of Labor

The disability rights activist

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Information from website should not be a substitute
for medical advice from a health care professional.