Women with Disabilities

Women and girls with disabilities was not a topic I had previously considered.  Although it seemed interesting, I really didn’t think we would be able to find much information about the topic.  When we started researching we found that this was not true at all.  There was so much information about the struggles that women with disabilities experience.  Many articles talked about how these individuals experience may experience discrimination on two accounts, because they are women and because they have a visible disability.  These women may experience discrimination when looking for a job, when looking for a place to live and even in their medical care.  We found that many doctors will not discuss these women’s sexual health because they assume they cannot be intimate.  I thought this was very interesting and must really impact the patients.

Our presentation of this material went very well.  We did two presentations on the 15th.  We had a fairly large turnout and our audience was very diverse.  We had visitors from all over the world, including Brazil, Germany, Australia, The United Kingdom, and America.  Many of our visitors also shared that they had disabilities.  The women with disabilities who were in the audience shared their own personal experiences, which was very interesting.  The women all seemed to agree with the information we were presenting.  Many of them said that they had experienced discrimination in the areas that we had discussed.  They were very open with their own struggles of depression and feeling isolated.  The women said that sometimes they felt like they were standing in their own way but could not pull themselves out of the depression.  There was one young woman who said she had just finished her first semester at college. She said that she was so exhausted from proving to herself and others that she could do everything that any able bodied person could do.  Her partner was also in the audience and said that after her accident she was very depressed and it took her a long time to get over the depression.  Another topic that the women were very vocal about was their sexual health needs being ignored by doctors.  They said that many times they felt like doctors seemed to think of them as being asexual.  The one thing that seemed to surprise the audience was that women with disabilities are more at risk for violence.  Our research showed that this population was more at risk for physical, verbal and sexual abuse.  None of the women spoke of any personal experience with this, however they all seemed very concerned at the possibility.

I think our audience added such a great component to our presentation. We learned so much from their discussion and it seemed like they really enjoyed speaking with each other.  They explained that they often feel alone with the issues that go along with having a disability, and it was great to see them interacting with other people who face the same issues.  Overall I think the sessions went very well and our very diverse audience added so much to the discussion.

Health Literacy Grant

This fall, we were funded by the Jefferson School of Health Professions‘ (JSHP) Research and Scholarship program to develop a program that uses Second Life as a training center for JSHP graduate students in occupational therapy. This program is designed to help students learn best practices for promoting health literacy in older adults by implementing evidence-based consumer education.

The current phase of the program provides students in the Fall 2011 class, Older Adults and Their Living Environments with the opportunity to learn about health literacy and develop a presentation on area relevant to older adults.  The four participating students, Mollie Bear, Bonnie Bennett, Aly Binck, and Lauren Lovinger first attended a presentation on basic tenets of health literacy. They then developed and presented talks on Transitioning to the Caregiving Role and  Staying Involved throughout Life. These talks will be summarized in a subsequent post.