Seminar on Disabled Women
Vienna, 20-24 August 1990
Part 1 of 4
Social Council resolution 1987/24 established the priority themes for each session of the
Commission on the Status of Women, through 1992. The theme for the thirty-fifth session in
1991 under the rubric equality is "Vulnerable women, including migrant women".
By the same resolution, the Council requested that, when funds were available, meetings
should be held to prepare for the themes. In that connection, a seminar on Disabled Women
was convened at Vienna from 20 to 24 August 1990 to provide input to the report on that
vulnerable group. The Commission will consider the full and constructive integration of
disabled women in development at its thirty-sixth session in 1992 under the priority theme
for development "Integration of women in the process of development".
The seminar focused on issues relating to the double discrimination that may be
experienced by disabled women. When discrimination based on disability combines with
discrimination based on sex, disabled women can be more disadvantaged than, not only able
women, but also disabled men. Situations of double discrimination against disabled women
can be documented in the areas of education, training, health and employment, among
others. T'he seminar was attended by one consultant, 20 participants, and 20 observers
from Member States, bodies of the United Nations system and specialized agencies, and
other non-governmental organizations.
Women with disabilities are one group identified in the Nairobi Forward- looking
Strategies for the Advancement of Women to the Year 2000 as meriting "special
concern". They, together with young women, migrant women, elderly women and
female-heads of household, are among those considered particularly vulnerable. They are
considered because of their special characteristics, to experience not only the problems
common to all women, but also specific difficulties due to their socio- economic and
health condition, age, minority status or a combination of these factors.
The Strategies noted that recognition of the human dignity of women with disabilities
and their full participation in society was still limited. In that sense, disabled women
would be considered "vulnerable" until steps were taken to eliminate obstacles
to full integration and participation in society. The basis for the vulnerability of
disabled women as a group is their potential to experience double discrimination. Like any
other woman, they may have to face disadvantaged situations due to sex, and as disabled
persons, they may suffer discrimination linked to disability.
The experts participating in the Seminar on Disabled Women have heard and reviewed the
current situation of disabled women and girls around the world and find that corrective
measures must be taken immediately to improve the lives of disabled women and girls.
The Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women1 constitute an ambitious effort to achieve equality for all
women by the year 2000. The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons seeks to
achieve equality for all disabled persons. Together, they constitute a normative basis for
equal opportunity and full integration of disabled women.
The experts at the seminar believe that, while the United Nations and other
international, regional and national governmental and non-governmental bodies have
dopted policies and legislation to ensure the civil and human rights of disabled
persons, they have failed in practice to ensure effectively that those rights are granted
to disabled girls and women.
Disabled girls and women can make important contributions to the world's societies and
economies and the extreme subordination and discrimination suffered by them throughout the
world is intolerable. Therefore, the experts agreed that the attainment of equal rights by
and the creation of opportunities for disabled women and girls in social, economic and
political spheres must become a reality through the world,
The experts are of the opinion that:
- Women play an extremely important role in the development and progress of human society;
- Prevailing attitudes of society towards the human, economic and social value of disabled
women are misinformed and unjustifiably negative;
- Women with disabilities have, up to now, been pushed aside and have not been openly
accepted in the women's movement;
- Every woman is likely to experience disability at some point of her life, either by
having a disability herself or as a wife, mother or daughter of another disabled person.
- The concept of independent living should be promoted world-wide and opportunities to
implement it for disabled women should be provided.
B. Definition of disabled women
Girls and women with disabilities include women with physical, sensory and mental
impairments whether visually apparent or not (including such conditions as diabetes, heart
disease or breast cancer). It includes disabled girls and women of all ages, in rural and
urban areas, regardless of the severity of the disability or whether they live in the
community or in an institution.
In order to emphasize the interrelationship between gender and disability in an
effective way to encourage constructive public discussion, the term "women with
disabilities" should, until definitive terminology is agreed, be used interchangeably
with the term "disabled women".
The experts are of the opinion that the recommendations that follow should be
vigorously implemented with political will and determination at all levels, national,
regional and international, as appropriate. They are convinced that appropriate
institutional arrangements, including for monitoring, should be established and
recommendations are made to this effect. National governments should, in particular,
implement the recommendations.
The experts call on intergovernmental bodies such as the Commission on the Status of
Women and the Commission for Social Development, being the specialized intergovernmental
bodies, respectively, for advancement of women and for disability, to consider seriously
the recommendations with a view to providing guidance to both national governments and to
the organizations of the United Nations system. The Commissions should include the issue
of disabled women in their agenda items on monitoring the review and appraisal of the
Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (FLS) for the Advancement of Women and the World
Programme of Action (WPA) 5 concerning Disabled Persons. The importance of involving
disabled women, individually and through their organizations in this process, at all
levels and in all activities, was stressed.
1 Report of the World Conference to review and appraise the
achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: equality, development and peace,
A/Conf. 1 16/28/Rev. 1