Double Discrimination Faced by Women With Disabilities in the Workplace

Greetings!  I’m Nico Trimoff, manager of transcription and accessibility services at
I am back after a nice long holiday and it’s time for me to get down to work.  Today, I have a very thought provoking article to share with you; one that I hope you find interesting. 
I wish you a great day.

An online magazine article
Double Discrimination Faced by Women With Disabilities in the Workplace
March 15, 2010
In today’s society, disability is equated to being an illness. Although
individuals with disabilities tend to face discrimination in society, the
Canadian government acknowledges the importance of shifting away from the
“stigma” and the biomedical approach when discussing disability. Their goal
is to provide individuals with disabilities with independent living, social
inclusion, control and social support. In order to achieve these goals,
many changes are needed to be made.
Over the years, the issue of gender discrimination has been frequently
addressed by the government and policy makers. As a result, new laws and
policies have been established in order to try and reach equality. In
today’s society, however, although policies have been established, gender
discrimination still exists. On the other hand, double discrimination faced
by women with disabilities is not being addressed. People tend to discuss
gender differences but it is not very often related to disability. It is
almost as if society is not aware of the stigma that is associated with
disability which is created by society. Women in general have not reached
equality in the labour force and women with disabilities have not been given
The focus on “normality” and narrow standards of beauty make it more
difficult for women with disabilities to be recognized and included in
society. It is believed that “normal” means not to be different from those
who are in the able-bodied majority. This includes having a specific body
type and face, looking young, as well as being an able-bodied individual.
Society fears difference therefore it is referred to as “not normal”.
Society also tends to pity those who are different and establishes various
assumptions regarding the capabilities of those with disabilities. Pressure
from society creates barriers and exclusion for women with disabilities.
Women with disabilities should be looked at the same way as everyone else;
there is no difference. They should be considered based on their
capabilities and not assumptions that are created by others. Women with
disabilities are capable of contributing to society if given the
opportunity. Society fails to see the full potential of those with
disabilities out of fear and thereby excludes them. Denying women with
disabilities this opportunity is similar to trying to hide them.
Individuals with disabilities should be integrated into society rather than
trying to segregate them.
Independence and participation are the key concepts in today’s society. In
order to be independent and able to survive, one needs to be employed or
have some form of financial support. Employment in turn provides an income
that is necessary for survival but also a sense of belonging because of the
ability of giving back to society. Every individual strives towards
independence but it is difficult to achieve it especially for women with
disabilities. Women with disabilities are more likely to be employed in
low-status or lower paid jobs. This in itself has an influence on achieving
Employment means connecting with other people outside of home. Being
employed allows individuals with disabilities to socialize and meet new
people. Having people around enhances the quality of life of individuals.
Many of those women with disabilities who are employed find that being
employed engenders a sense of belonging, which has a positive influence on
their self-esteem. In general, being employed opens a door to many
opportunities. It is especially true for women with disabilities.
Although North America has rules and regulations in regards to employment of
individuals with disabilities, clearly it is not enough. The unfortunate
part is that most of these women do not speak up and if and when they do,
they are ignored. In order to implement specific policies and regulations
in regards to breaking down barriers for women with disabilities, these
women themselves have to be involved as advocates if they have proper
supports. What is problematic though, is that most women with disabilities
are excluded when it comes to decision making. Over the years women have
fought hard to be recognized in society and therefore at the present time it
is hard to envision when women would be included when it comes to policy
making. It is necessary to move towards the time when it will be hard to
imagine not including women with disabilities when it comes to policy
Lack of accommodations and knowledge are two main components to exclusion
and isolation from the labour force. Some of the employers are not aware of
the importance of accommodating employees with disabilities. Lack of
knowledge about disability and the stigma that is affiliated with it
contributes to employment barriers. Having a law such as the ‘duty to
accommodate’ demonstrates that efforts are being made and Canada is shifting
towards becoming an equal opportunity type country. It was only 15 years
ago when employers were not legally expected to ensure that individuals with
disabilities were accommodated in their workplace. Having a law such as the
‘duty to accommodate’ can ensure that women with disabilities do not face
direct or adverse effect types of discrimination. However, in many cases,
most women with disabilities have faced direct discrimination.
Although the ‘duty to accommodate’ ensures that individuals with
disabilities are provided with employment that meets their capabilities, it
does not necessarily mean that the attitudes of others will go away. When
it comes to the workplace, many employers disregard these policies. Thus,
the issue that needs to be fully examined is why do employers disregard
legislation and what needs to be done to ensure that employers understand
the importance of such laws?
This is the issue that still needs to be carefully examined in order to
fully eliminate discrimination.
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About Donna Jodhan

Donna Jodhan is an award winning blind author, advocate, sight loss coach, blogger, podcast commentator, and accessibility specialist.
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