Women with disabilities have many of the same health concerns and needs as all women—such as needing routine breast and cervical cancer screens or treatment for the flu or an infection. They also might have special health concerns related to their disabilities or illnesses.
However, there are barriers—both physical and attitudinal— that keep women with disabilities from getting screening and preventive care that can compromise their health. Many of the health disparities identified through research on women with disabilities may be traced back to problems in accessing health care or lack of providers who are informed about health in the context of disabilities.
According to the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD), women with disabilities are often denied reproductive and other types of health care, or given substandard care compared to women with uncomplicated health care needs. Several studies have documented the lack of health insurance among women with disabilities.
If you are a woman with a disability, take charge of your health. If you are a health care provider, learn how to accommodate women with disabilities and advocate for their right to health care services.
Resources for Women
Health Promotion for Women with Disabilities
Information about health promotion that helps women with disabilities become a more informed user of health care and take actions to have a healthier life style and a better quality of life.
Women’s Health Resources from the North Carolina Office on Disability and Health
NCODH publishes materials on healthcare for women with disabilities including accessibility issues, cancer screenings and general wellness.
Women with Disabilities Education Program
The Education Program pursues two parallel tracts: a self-management curriculum for patients and a training curriculum for health professionals. It provides comprehensive information about receiving appropriate and effective health care and materials that describe the latest evidence-based research and recommendations regarding the specific health needs of women with disabilities.
American Congress on Gynecologists
Materials on providing gynecological care to women with disabilities including an interactive slide show, Reproductive Health Care for Women with Disabilities that assists women’s health care clinicians with office skills to assist with their care of women with physical, developmental or sensory disabilities giving specific information for reproductive health care.
A Providers Guide for the Care of Women with Physical Disabilities and Chronic Medical Conditions (PDF)
The guide is designed for clinicians to improve their knowledge and practice in providing care to women with physical disabilities and chronic health conditions. It includes information on access to general medical care, removing common barriers, comprehensive reproductive health care and health promotion and wellness.
Pregnancy and Parenting
Many women with cerebral palsy and other disabilities have had healthy and successful pregnancies. However, just as with any pregnancy, the mother with a disability will require regular monitoring by a specialist to ensure that the pregnancy is progressing as planned and the baby is doing well. The abilities and resources that the mother with a disability has are the best determinants of how well she will be able to take care of the child after delivery.
The following Web sites offer information about pregnancy and parenting with a disability:
Through the Looking Glass: National Center for Parents with Disabilities
The National Center empowers parents and potential parents with disabilities by disseminating disability-appropriate information regarding parenting to parents, disability advocates, and legal, medical, intervention and social services providers. Their overall goal is to increase information and support more disability-appropriate resources for parents with disabilities and their children throughout the U.S.
Pregnancy and Delivery
A list of potential risks and complications faced by women with disabilities during pregnancy and delivery.
Preconception Health Care for Women with Disabilities (PDF)
Article from the Journal of Maternal and Child Health outlining reproductive health care needs, especially those for women planning for pregnancy.
There are many risk factors that lead to higher rates of violence such as physical and social isolation and depression. Also, women with disabilities have even fewer options for escaping or resolving the abuse than non-disabled women. Domestic violence shelters and programs are often not accessible and/or not equipped to deal with women who have special health care needs or sensory impairment.
Resources on Violence and Women with Disabilities from CROWD
Reports, statistics, and research on violence and women with disabilities.
Violence Against Women with Disabilities
Resources from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health.
Other Helpful Resources
Breast Cancer Screening: The Right to Know Campaign
A family of health promotion materials from the CDC designed to increase awareness of breast cancer among women with physical disabilities and encourage these women to get screened.
Orchid Magazine: Health and Wellness for Women with Disabilities
Articles on health, leisure, physical activity, relationships and nutrition for women with disabilities.
Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities
This book provides basic information to help women with disabilities stay healthy, and will also help those who assist women with disabilities to provide good care.