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Disabled Women: Our Bodies Our Rights

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Last year, Engender received funding from the Tampon Tax Fund for a project researching disabled women's experiences of parenting and reproductive health services in Scotland. Disabled Women: Our Bodies, Our Rights (previously called Disabled Women's Reproductive Journeys) has been operating for over a year now, and we're pleased to give you an update on how it's going from Chris Belous our project intern.

The project also has a Twitter account now, which is the best way to find out the latest updates on the project.

Follow it at Disabled Women: Our Bodies Our Rights

How we work

Since the project started we've been working hard and speaking to as many disabled women as possible about their experiences and what could be improved. Disabled women are central to, and involved at, every step of the project. Our advisory group is made up of disabled women and leads on the direction of the project, as well as consulting on practicalities like accessibility and easy-read language. We also took on an intern, Chris Belous (Hello! That's me!), with the help of disabled people's organisation Inclusion Scotland this spring to work on the project.

Where we're at

Last year, our Development Manager Catriona Kirkpatrick wrote about the consultation events we held in the autumn, where we invited disabled women to share their experiences. Since then, we've been organising smaller focus groups to be held in a variety of locations around Scotland, so that we can reach more disabled women and have more in-depth discussions about the issues. We've also been sharing an anonymous and confidential survey where disabled women can tell us their experiences – good and bad – and what they want to see improved, as well as worksheets which can be used to facilitate discussion about this.

In June, we held three roundtables around the broad themes that have come through from these discussions, categorised by health, social care and education. We invited relevant service providers, academics and other professionals to come and hear about what we've learnt so far from our research and to provide their own perspective on service provision and support for disabled women. This has led to the creation of some practical recommendations about how we change and improve parenting and reproductive health services so they meet the needs and rights of disabled women better.

All of this is leading up to the summer, which is when we will be writing a report, including an easy-read version, on our findings. This will include recommendations for next steps and how to improve disabled women's services and support. We'll be holding a conference on November 6th to present the report, talk about what we've found, and hear from disabled women and service providers themselves about their experiences.

What we're learning

Some of the issues disabled women have told us they come up against include:

  • Disabled women consultation eventA lack of accessible information and communication about services, procedures and more
  • Stereotyping from professionals that disabled women don't have sex and should not be mothers
  • A lack of accessible infrastructure – buildings, signage and transport to services are not accessible, and there is also a lack of accessible equipment available
  • Working with professionals who are not understanding and do not listen to their needs
  • Being worried about having their children taken away just because they are a disabled parent

Where disabled women have had positive experiences with reproductive health and parenting services in Scotland, this has often been down to an individual staff member going above and beyond to provide good support. Otherwise, support is highly inconsistent, from individual to individual and from region to region. In our roundtables with service providers, consistency – not just in service provision, but training and available resources - was indeed the word of the day, and work to improve on this will form a part of the recommendations in our final report.

Get involved

If you are a disabled woman in Scotland and you want to participate in the project, please email Chris for information.

If you are a service professional working with disabled women and you would like to find out more about the project and ways to get involved, and if you would like to attend the report dissemination conference on November 6th in Edinburgh or see a copy of the report when it is published, please email Catriona or call us on 0131 558 9596.

Don't forget to follow the project on Twitter.

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