Women and girls living with disabilities often face additional marginalization in their experiences of abuse as well as specific barriers to accessing services, due to:
By engaging women with disabilities and their advocates to better understand their specific experiences and needs, shelter service providers can work to reduce barriers to access and improve service delivery for women with disabilities.
Effective services for survivors with disabilities can be supported through institutional and system-wide efforts which:
The Safer and Stronger Program used an anonymous Audio Computer-Assisted Self-Interview (A-CASI) tool to provide a women with disabilities a tailored, accessible and anonymous method to self-screen for abuse. The tool aims to increase awareness of abusive situations, provide safety planning strategies and information about community resources. It was implemented with 305 women who evaluated it as ‘an accessible and safe method for disclosing abuse’ and demonstrated increased awareness 3 months after completing the assessment (Oschwald in Robinson-Whelen). The assessment is self-paced and offers a choice of audio, text, and American Sign Language questions, with the assessment responsive to participant answers regarding their particular needs. Video clips of survivors with various disabilities are integrated throughout and provide affirming messages and information on warning signs and safety promoting strategies. The initiative also increased accessibility of the screening tool through provision of childcare, transportation and personal assistance for participants, although challenges identified include the cost of tool development and inaccessiblility to women with sensory disabilities.
Sources: Powers et al. 2009. Interpersonal Violence and Women With Disabilities: Analysis of Safety Promoting Behaviors; Powers et al.’s 2009b; Oschwald et al, 2009; Robinson-Whelen et al. 2010.
The Safety Awareness Programme for Women with Disabilities (ASAP for Women) in the United States aims to help prevent sexual and domestic violence against individuals with disabilities by raising awareness of women with diverse types of disabilities, who may or may not have experienced abuse, and educating and training disability service providers, domestic and sexual violence staff and criminal justice personnel with custom-designed presentations and workshops. The intervention also provides organizational guidance on enhancing accessibility to persons with disabilities and helping reduce their risks of abuse.
Implemented with 213 women from ten centres for in independent living (CILs) across eight states, the programme involves eight, two and one-half hour interactive sessions delivered over eight weeks, covering safety awareness, self-advocacy, the nature and dynamics of interpersonal violence, safety promoting behaviors, safety planning strategies, and healthy relationships. The curriculum is based on the Stop the Violence, Break the Silence, a training guide developed by SafePlace. It promotes physical and literal accessibility by designing universally accessible materials – using alternative print formats (e.g. large print, Braille, and electronic versions), and arranging for sign language interpretation services designed to increase protective factors. The initiative aims to enhance women’s self-efficacy with regard to their safety and decision-making as part of empowering them and reducing their vulnerability to violence.
A pilot evaluation of the initiative found it accessible, relevant and feasible for women with wide range of disabilities, having notable positive effects on women’s confidence to promote their own safety and reducing participants’ social isolation by fostering healthy relationships, expanding networks of non-abusive relationships, and strengthening effective communication.
The following strategies and guidelines from the United States can be used to inform the planning and design of shelters with improved physical accessibility. Where possible, shelters should:
Source: adapted from “Accessibility: Ramps, ADA Bathrooms and a Whole Lot More!”. Washington State Coalition against Domestic Violence, 2009; Smith & Harrell S., 2011; and Hoog, 2004
Model Protocol: Screening Practices for Domestic Violence Victims with Disabilities. (Hoog for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2010). This tool provides guidance on how to examine, revise and expand screening and intake processes to include questions about accommodating needs of women with disabilities. Available in English.
Forced Marriage and Learning Disabilities: Multi -Agency Practice Guidelines (R. Clawson, P. Vallance in conjunction with the Forced Marriage Unit, 2010). These practice guidelines are for frontline practitioners and volunteers within agencies that work with children and adults with learning disabilities. Based on the context within the United Kingdom, they offer an overview of forced marriage among people with disabilities; and guidance related to consent and other promising practices for supporting survivors of forced marriage. Available in English.
Source: International Online Resource Centre on Disability and Inclusion (Handicap International). This website is a centralized resource for practitioners, academics and advocates in development and humanitarian settings. The website features introductory resources, statistics from regional contexts, as well as research sections specific to cross-cutting issues (gender, violence), health and functional rehabilitation, education, livelihoods, social inclusion, humanitarian settings. Available in English.
Getting Safe Against the Odds (Domestic Violence Resource Centre, Victoria). This guide is for service providers in the family violence and disabilities fields. It is informed by the experiences of survivors with disabilities and provides practical tips for individual workers and agencies to improve the safety of their clients. Based on the lessons of the Violence Against Women with Disabilities Project, the guide includes information for agencies to plan interventionsl, screen and conduct risk assessments and safety planning, as well guidance on supporting protective measures such as orders of protection and coordinated responses. Available in English.
Guidelines for Creating Barrier-Free Emergency Shelters (Handicap International, 2009). This tool provides guidance for designing shelters accessible to all members of a community. Based on the context of Nepal and focused on emergencies, the guidance can be adapted as needed to other shelter settings. Available in English.
Getting Free from Abuse: A Guide for Women with Disabilities (Domestic Violence Resource Centre, Victoria, 2008). This online guide is for women with disabilities. It provides information and tools for identifying the warning signs of abuse by a partner, a family member, caretakers, or others; presents background information on abuse and domestic violence, its impact and how to seek help. The guide features stories andinsights from survivors with disabilities and is accompanied by a guide for service providers. This guide is avaialable in Arabic, English, Greek, Mandarin or Vietnamese.
Increasing Agency Accessibility for People with Disabilities: Domestic Violence Agency Self-Assessment Guide (Hoog for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2004). This resource provides guidance on how to complete a programme self-assessment and plan for improvements in access and service for women with disabilities. Survey tools for self-assessment are included. Available in English.
Braille Brochure on Family Protection Law in Jordan, for Women with Visual Impairments. Outlines the provisions of the Family Protection Law in Braille. The brochure was drafted by several legal experts and was presented as part of a workshop for visually impaired people. For more information, contact Karama.
Open Minds Open Doors Manual (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1996). This manual provides specific guidelines for programming to address violence against women with disabilities (e.g. implementing accessibility modifications according to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and increasing sensitivity and responsiveness among program staff of the needs of survivors) Available in English.
The Accessibility Responsiveness Review Tool (UMKC Institute for Human Development, Rose Brooks Center, and Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, 2006). This tool provides a framework for domestic violence, sexual violence, and disability service organisations to review the inclusivity, accessibility and responsiveness of their services to women with disabilities. Developed for practitioners based on the context in the United States, it provides a background on the linkages between policy and services, the impact of workplace culture, and the value of collaborative partnerships. The guide outlines guiding questions, suggestions and practical ideas for organizations to review the quality of their services around five key areas: inclusive practices, communication, environment, and policies accessibility and building capacity of organizations. Available in English.
More Than Just A Ramp - A Guide for Women's Refuges to Develop Disability Discrimination Action Plans (Women with Disabilities Australia, 2007). This Booklet, part of the Resource Manual on Violence Against Women With Disabilities, is a step by step guide for women's refuges (and other similar services) to develop disability discrimination act action plans. An Action Plan identifies barriers which may result in discrimination against women with disabilities who need to use a service. The Action Plan recommends strategies to eliminate these barriers and devise ways for monitoring and evaluating the plan's implementation. The Booklet provides detailed information on how to re-orient services to better meet the needs of women with disabilities experiencing, or at risk of experiencing violence. The Booklet contains case studies from Australia which highlight the types of discrimination experienced by women with disabilities when seeking shelter. Available by purchase in English.
The Survivor's Handbook (Jackie Barron for Women’s Aid, 2009). This handbook provides practical support and information for women experiencing domestic violence, with basic guidance on every aspect of seeking support. The resource includes a specific section on disability and provides help-seeking links relevant to women with different communication impairments. The handbook is supplemented by informational video messages. Available in English, among other languages as well as an audio version.