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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality
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Theme: Women with Disabilities

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Report:
Seminar on Disabled Women
Vienna, 20-24 August 1990
Part 2 of 4

I. RECOMMENDATIONS

Index to Recommendations:

* A. Statistical information
* B. Ethics and human rights
* C. National legislation
* D. Conventions and other international legal instruments
* E. National focal point on women with disabilities
* F. Leadership development
* G. Education
* H. Vocational training and employment
* I. Marriage and parenthood
* J. Violence, sexual abuse and safety
* K. Mass media, communication and information
* L. Counselling
* M. Social security
* N. Health
* O. Rehabilitation
* P. Public buildings and housing
* Q. Transportation
* R. Technical needs and assistance
* S. Research
* T. Project funding
* U. Regional and subregional
* V. International focal points

A. Statistical information

Women with Disabilities icon It is strongly recommended that national governments take early steps to incorporate the collection of gender specific data on issues related to disability in existing statistical series. Moreover, each country should undertake a nation-wide survey on disability that would investigate the incidence of disability in the country, its major causes and measures taken by individuals or families to deal with the situation. A model questionnaire should be prepared for this purpose by the United Nations Statistical Office to highlight the issue of women with disabilities and to obtain such information as income level, employment and educational attainment, among others. Such a survey would allow an analysis of the national situation as well as permit regional and international comparisons. It would also be advisable to have personnel trained in data collection on disabled women involved in household surveys and censuses.

The meeting fully endorsed recommendation 7.m. of the "Expert Group Meeting on alternative ways to mark the end of the United Nations Decade of Disabled persons" which proposed the revision of the International Classification of Impairment, Disability and Handicap, and recommended that an expert meeting on definitions, composed of representatives of organizations of disabled people should be organized by 1992.

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B. Ethics and human rights

Disabled women should be informed about their civil and human rights in order to be able to make their own decisions.

Appropriate legislation that guarantees the full exercise of the rights of women to decide on sexuality, pregnancy, new reproductive technology, adoption, motherhood and any other relevant issue in this respect should be adopted and implemented.

No medical decisions concerning a disabled woman should be made without her informed consent.

Measures should be adopted to protect women with mental or learning disabilities and information should be provided in a manner they can easily understand. When appropriate, an advocate should be provided to facilitate their decision-making.

Open and public discussions on topics such as sexuality, which are often considered too delicate to deal with, should be encouraged with due respect to cultural norms, in order to increase the level of knowledge among disabled women, their families, professional staff and the general population.

In countries where cultural and religious traditions make access to medical, vocational, rehabilitative, employment and other services for disabled women difficult, measures should be taken to ensure that these obstacles are removed so that disabled girls and women can receive those benefits.

Development and application of new reproductive technologies to prevent disabilities should be seen in terms of ethical and human rights dimensions.

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C. National legislation

National legislation should not discriminate against disabled people and should include such aspects as social security, environmental barriers, transport, medical and technical facilities and should take into consideration the particular needs of disabled women as their legal right. It should facilitate improvement of their situation within the family and the society.

Legislation to protect the civil and human rights of disabled girls and women should be passed by electoral bodies at the national or provincial levels, in compliance with international norms. This legislation should be monitored by the appropriate governmental bodies to ensure effective implementation.

Equalization of opportunities for disabled girls and women can only be realized when discriminatory patterns and practices that deny equal access are removed. Thus, special legislation should be prepared to deal with provisions in social security system, for women with disabilities and for young disabled mothers with children; with public transportation, in view of the fact that women are less mobile and more confined to the house due to social and cultural patterns in some regions; and in other areas where special legislation is justified by the particular situation of disabled women.

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D. Conventions and other international legal instruments

All countries should ratify or accede to, if they have not already done so, the International Covenants on Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as other relevant instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 159 on the Vocational Rehabilitation and the Employment of Disabled Persons and Recommendation No. 168 on the same subject, the Florence Agreement and its Protocol on the importation of educational, scientific and cultural materials.2

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) should request States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to include information on the situation of disabled women in their periodic reports to CEDAW on the implementation of the Convention.

In the elaboration of any new international legal instrument on disabled persons provision should be specifically made for improving the situation of disabled women. Further, disabled women should be involved in the development of those instruments, especially in the work on the proposed standard rules on the equalization of opportunities for disabled children, youth and adults (ECOSOC resolution 1990/26).

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E. National focal point on women with disabilities

A national committee with representatives from the national machinery for the advancement of women, other relevant government bodies, disabled women from non-- governmental organizations and experienced individuals should be given the focal point role on women with disabilities. That committee should act as a strong national task force to implement recommendations concerning women with disabilities, and should develop programmes for equalization of opportunities and full participation of disabled women in society.

This national focal point should also be closely linked to existing and planned national disability committees (NDC). These NDCs should be strengthened, if necessary, or established where they do not exist. Disabled women and their organizations should be active members.

National machineries for the advancement of women should be strengthened and women with disabilities should be included in those machineries.

Disabled women should be actively involved in both disabled people's self help organizations and women's organizations. Organizations of disabled persons at national level should encourage the establishment of sub-committees of disabled women or independent disabled women's groups.

The national focal point, as well as disabled women themselves, should launch special campaigns to increase the membership of disabled women in those organizations. That should be the case for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) specialized on disabled persons as well as in other NGOs, particularly women's groups.

There should be a stronger presence of disabled women in national delegations to international meetings, committees and commissions concerning issues of either women or disabled persons. The participation of disabled women should be encouraged not only when topics related to them are specifically on the agenda, but in all technical meetings.

Governmental and non-governmental national women's organizations and bodies should include disabled women and issues related to them within the general women's movement, implementing action plans according to the present recommendations.

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F. Leadership development

The purpose of leadership development should be to assist disabled girls and women to attain self-esteem and to encourage them to take leadership positions, in order to become integrated members of their communities, and to encourage their increased participation at all levels in all countries.

Disabled women should be incorporated in all training within all national bodies that organize leadership and management development.

Programmes should be designed specifically for disabled women and girls, as well as be considered an integrated part of existing women's training programmes.

Leadership training seminars, educational programmes and job training programmes for establishing co-operatives and income-generating activities should be organized at local levels, including rural areas, to increase disabled women's awareness of their own situation at the grass-roots level.

The United Nations system should assist disabled women in developing leadership skills through the elaboration of model curricula by ILO, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to be used at various levels of leadership in all countries and through technical co-operation. All efforts should be made to have disabled women as trainers.

Recommendation 7.k made by the "Expert Group Meeting on alternative ways to mark the end of the United Nations Decade of Disabled persons" supporting the establishment of a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Task Force on Disabled Children, Youth and Women with participation by organizations of disabled women should be endorsed. Endorsement should also be given to the recommendation on a special award to be presented in recognition of dedicated efforts on behalf of disabled women.

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G. Education

Disabled women and girls should have full access to and the right to primary, secondary and higher education and they should be encouraged to take up that right. Education must be in mainstream schools with special tuition requirements waived and supporting services provided, where necessary. This should also include adult literacy and other educational programmes. Disabled women should be encouraged to seek educational opportunities to enable them to advance as fun members of society.

It is also important to educate parents and family members of disabled girls and women on how to develop positive attitudes towards disability and to bring about an awareness concerning the special needs and problems of disabled women. It would be useful to elaborate a training kit for family members, especially for mothers who are usually the primary caretakers. Existing handbooks, such as the manual on community based rehabilitation for disabled persons developed by the World Health Organization should be made available for training purposes. It is important that adult disabled women are considered independent of rather than dependent on their families.

UNESCO should give priority attention to the concerns of disabled girls and women in its educational programmes, especially those relating to the International Literacy Year.

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H. Vocational training and employment

Employment is a critical component in enabling disabled women to achieve self esteem and social recognition. Disabled women should be trained for employment opportunities for which there is a demand in the labour market. When special training is needed, women with disabilities should not be disadvantaged in comparison with other population groups. Disabled women should have appropriate access to all training programmes. Existing vocational training programmes for women should be made especially accessible to disabled women.

For the integration of disabled women into vocational training programmes, supportive services should be provided.

Disabled women should be encouraged to seek employment opportunities which have a reasonable wage and status. Effective assistance should be given to disabled women to maintain employment, through such means as follow-up services and contacts with employers.

In creation of small enterprises and other forms of self employment, disabled women should have equal right to financial assistance, if available.

The programmes of the ILO and FAO, as well as other organizations concerned with employment, should take into account the needs of disabled women. Those organizations should work in close co-operation with disabled women and their organizations.

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I. Marriage and parenthood

Taking into account that many women with disabilities experience great difficulties in getting married and setting up a family, counselling and training should be provided in this area. Media can play an important role in removing negative attitudes about marriage and parenthood of disable persons. Non-governmental .organizations should consider setting up services that would assist disabled people to meet potential spouses.

Disabled women should have access to family planning methods as well as to information about the sexual functioning of their bodies. That information should be provided on cassette, in large print, in Braille and in sign language or by counsellors in public social services on a local basis.

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J. Violence, sexual abuse and safety

Violence against disabled girls and women is a major problem and statistics show that disabled girls and women air, more likely to be victims of violence because o their vulnerability.

Special programmes to prevent such violence must be developed with the understanding of the unique needs of girls and women who need assistance with their personal hygienic care. They should be informed on how to prevent the occurrence of violence, how to recognize when violence has occurred and how to report such acts. Disabled girls and women with mental or communicative disabilities are particularly vulnerable.

Disabled girls and women should have access to general and specific training programmes in accordance with their needs and, where integration may be hindered supporting services should be provided with the purpose of facilitating integration into the general population.

Disabled women, their families and social service personnel should be fully informed on taking precautions against sexual abuse. In the case of abuse of disabled women, especially of mentally handicapped women, legislation should be developed and enforced.

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K. Mass media, communication and information

The visibility of disabled women has to be increased at all levels of society. The media play an important role in disseminating information on disabled women and can contribute to a positive change in public attitudes. In order to achieve this, portrayal of positive images of disabled women at all levels of society by the media (TV, newspapers, publications) is imperative. Women with disabilities, preferably nominated by disabled women's organizations, should be actively consulted and involved in presentations and should monitor the programmes. In view of the practise of exchanging radio and TV productions on regional and international levels, those prograrnmes could be disseminated on a larger scale. The use and the choice of positive language describing disability and women's matters should be encouraged and deserve full media attention.

Where governments operate television, radio and or newspapers they should be encouraged to develop programming which addresses the needs of disabled women in co-operation with organizations of disabled people.

The examples of active women with disabilities would bring about awareness the public as well as positive role models for other disabled women and girls.

A national network of disabled women would be an important step in information sharing and dissemination, bringing about awareness and motivation for women with disabilities to become actively involved in organizational work. It should be the joint responsibility of the national focal point and disabled women, nation-wide to initiate such a network.

As part of the activities to mark the end of the Decade of Disabled persons, a special brochure on disabled women should be published and widely distributed, including all national governments and women's organizations. A special video highlighting the life of disabled women should also be produced.

Basic documents relevant to disabled women should be more available in local languages, where possible.

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L. Counselling

Disabled women should be able to receive counselling services from other women with disabilities and similar experiences. These services should be available in women organizations, disabled organizations, social service agencies and local services.

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M. Social security

Disabled women should receive sufficient economic support to live with dignity, whether single or married. If they are entitled to receive social benefits, those should be given to them and not to their family.

Legislation and practices which discourage or prevent women with disabilities from participating in the labour force should be reviewed to eliminate work disincentives. Women should be able to receive appropriate basic financial support in order to compensate for disability related services, such as personal assistance services, transportation, housing, technical aids and health care.

Provisions should be made to improve the situation of caretakers taking into account that 80 per cent are female, often family members or low paid or working on a voluntary basis. Women with disabilities should have the right and possibility to choose their attendant.

The subject of caretakers for disabled women should be given particular attention in preparing the priority theme on development (Child and dependent care) for the Commission on the Status of Women in 1995 and also be considered as a special issue by other relevant United Nations bodies.

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N. Health

In developing countries, primary health care should cover the needs of disabled women at home or by providing access to the health clinics and hospitals.

Provision of special facilities should be made for each category of needs on a cost-effective basis, with both health care to women at home and at clinics under the existing health services system.

WHO and other relevant agencies should encourage governments to provide adequate training programmes for health personnel regarding the specific needs of women and girls with disabilities.

There should be no discrimination against disabled women with regard to the availability of health care services.

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O. Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation services should be available to disabled women without sexual bias. Women should receive rehabilitation to enable them to have greater opportunities in the home and family and to fully participate in society. Medical rehabilitation services should be gender-neutral and available to all women with disabilities regardless of age.

Training in community based rehabilitation approaches (CBR) should be provided in all rural and urban areas with the involvement of disabled women at all levels.

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P. Public buildings and housing

Legislation should be enacted to bring about environmental adjustments and changes in order to provide disabled women access to all buildings including, but not limited to hospitals, educational centres and public facilities.

All new housing being constructed should be accessible to disabled women so that they can obtain access to all types of housing.

Disabled women nominated by disabled peoples organizations should be chosen, preferably as consultants, advisors or experts, to participate at all stages of planning and decision talking procedures, in order to ensure that women win have access to all ranges of personal, family and social life.

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Q. Transportation,

Transportation should be accessible to all disabled women. No policy should exist discriminating against disabled girls or women. Disabled mothers should be able to transport their children as required

Special efforts should be made by those responsible for transportation to ensure that disabled women have the same access as disabled men to all services.

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R. Technical needs and assistance

As women with disabilities have less access to equipment and technical aids, there should be local production of necessary equipment. That should be distributed to every women with disabilities at low costs or fire of charge. Programmes for the production of equipment and technical aids at regional and national level, including training in production and use for disabled women are strongly recommended. Technical aids should take into account women's requirements in their design, materials and quality. Should these technical aids not be available locally, the supply of imported equipment should be provided wherever needed, at work or at home.

Disabled girls and women need technical aids and assistance that are specifically designed to meet their unique needs. These services should be provided in a manner which take into consideration the cultural and religious traditions of these women.

Member States should pursue such financial policies, fiscal policies and existing tax and import duty policies as necessary to ensure that assisting devices can be obtained by disabled women at minimal cost.

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S. Research

Any development programme for disabled women should investigate the actual living conditions of disabled women both in urban and rural areas. Furthermore there should be research on the ways and means of improving the status, raising the living standard of disabled women and providing necessary facilities to them.

Descriptions provided by disabled women themselves regarding their situation should be the most important source of information. Women's own interpretation and documentation of their experiences, which is now underway, can be the start of a world-wide research project on women with disabilities. It is suggested to gradually create an international network linked to the national focal point on women with disabilities.

Particular attention should be given to improve the exchange of research experiences. In this context special attention should be given to recruit and educate suitably qualified women with disabilities as researchers.

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T. Project funding

The United Nations and the specialized agencies and the international, national, and local donor agencies should include among their priorities funding of programmes for disabled women. When priorities do exist in favour of disabled persons or women in general, favorable consideration should be given to the inclusion of programmes or components of programmes for disabled women.

In order to implement the recommendations made for activities on international level, appropriate resources should be made available. Developing projects for and with disabled women should get the necessary support and funding. In this respect it is recommended that the Voluntary Fund for the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons continues to provide assistance beyond the year 1992 with priority to the issue of disabled women.

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U. Regional and subregional activities

United Nations regional commissions should include in their programmes of work special activities aimed at the situation of disabled women, in co-operation with other United Nations agencies, the Division for the Advancement of Women, the Social Development Division, and disabled women and their organizations.

Organizations working on a regional level such as regional commissions, regional offices of United Nations specialized agencies, intergovernmental organizations, regional NGOs including regional networks of mass media are requested to provide assistance to women with disabilities

Organizations of the United Nations system as well as international regional governmental organizations should support NGOs and organizations concerned with disabled women financially and in other ways in order to ensure to disabled women the exercise of their rights.

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V. International focal points

The designated focal point in the United System for advancement of women is the Division for the Advancement of Women. For disabled persons, it is the Social Development Division (Disabled Persons' Unit). Both entities should continue to give attention to the issues of disabled women and work in close co-operation.

Organizations of disabled women, including committees of larger organizations, should participate actively in intergovernmental reviews of the Nairobi Strategies and the World Programme of Action (WPA) concerning Disabled Persons as a means of promoting implementation of these recommendations. They should particularly participate in the 1995 World Conference on Women and its related NGO forum and similar activities relating to the WPA.

To facilitate this participation, the international focal points should make a special effort to provide information and document distribution to disabled women, their organizations and organizations concerned with the issues of disabled women, especially through newsletters and bulletins and should seek to consult them on a regular basis.

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2 The 'Florence Agreement' was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at Florence in 1950 and the protocol to it at Nairobi in 1976.

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