Women with Disabilities
Two days after my accident, bruised, concussed, and propped up in a hospital bed, I received a phone call from the guy I had been dating. He didn’t know I had almost died in a high-speed collision; he happened to call by chance.
Ten minutes later, one of the nurses walked in to find me sobbing into the front of my oversized hospital gown. I was hysterical – but I’m pretty sure the insane amount of painkillers in my system was responsible for that. As criers go, I’m usually pretty subtle. I once cried so inconspicuously in the arms of an old boyfriend that even though my head was resting just below his chin, he didn’t notice.
I had been dumped, because, as the guy put it, “This is too heavy for me to deal with.”
Lying in bed, my mind jumped back and forth from the process of forgiving him to the trip that now seemed impossibly far away at just a time I wanted to be far, far away from California. Which made me think: how many disabled women in the developing world are abandoned annually by their spouses and families? And when they are abandoned, how do they take care of themselves? What are their mortality rates?
Unable to find answers right away (my head trauma made – and still makes – reading difficult), the questions were on my mind for weeks. Only today was I able to start researching the issue. Here’s some of what I’ve found:
According to DAWN Ontario, the unemployment rate for disabled women in the developing world is virtually 100%. Globally, women with disabilities are the poorest of the poor.
Disability World states that disabled women are often overlooked for microfinance or small-scale business development projects.
The United Nations Development Program estimates literacy rates for these women is 1%.
The Independent Living Institute reports that disabled women have difficulty finding and keeping spouses.
There do seem to be some organizations catering specifically to the disabled. However, the statistics for this particular group of women are still enormously depressing.
I wish I had some idea of what could be done to create better support networks for the disabled in the developing world. The sparse one here United States is my only model, and because I’ve seen the way the system has treated my disabled family members, I don’t think it’s a very effective one. Heck, I don’t think it works that well for the temporarily disabled, either. Minus the brain trauma (which I’m told may or may not be lasting – only time will tell) I’m not permanently disabled; yet because I’m presently unable to work, I’ve forfeited each day’s wages since the accident. That’s right: I’m currently pulling in zero income, and the ambulance bill, auto insurance bill, and hospital bills are already starting to come in. What little money I had saved for the future is all promised away, and I’ll be continuing to pay these costs once I’m able to resume work again. But just think: if my health woes were chronic and kept me from ever returning to my job, forget about saving for my trip. In fact, forget about saving at all. I have no idea how I’d be able to eat and pay my bills.
I’m adding a visit to one of the global organizations that work with the disabled to my trip to-do list. Maybe observing their practices will provide some ideas.