Rebekka smiling at an event surrounded by young campaigners

Let’s make sure disabled women’s voices are heard

Rebekka is 21 years old, studied history at Oxford University and is co-founder of Disabled Survivors Unite. She has epilepsy and set up the first disability awareness week there. She’s particularly interested in issues that affect disabled women.

Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse

They also experience abuse for longer but it’s something that isn’t picked up on very much. We need to expand how we view domestic abuse and acknowledge that there are different forms of violence and that they affect disabled women differently.

This issue has been left out of lots of mainstream disability campaigning because the focus has been on obtaining rights, which is understandable, but at the same time they don’t address specific issues faced by disabled women. I also think that services need to be more tailored to disabled women. For example, if they need to be re-housed, there are limited places that are accessible.

Rebekka in conversation with another female campaigner at an event

There’s a general lack of awareness

I think Disabled women’s issues are rarely represented in film, television and the media. If they are you have to go quite out of your way to find it.

I’ve seen a lot of domestic abuse helpline ads and none of them have specifically addressed disabled women and they’re not addressing accessibility issues.

Considering how difficult it is to seek help if you’re a domestic abuse victim, it’s even harder if you’re a disabled woman.

Making sure disabled women’s voices are heard

Disabled women are often neglected both within the disability and feminist movements. I’ve done a lot of work with the feminist campaign at Oxford to make sure they’re more accessible and are realising the issues faced by disabled women particularly.

I set up the first disability awareness week at Oxford and it’s now an annual thing. Every time we do it we make sure there are specific events tailored towards women. We’ve done things like how reproductive rights affect women, especially disabled women, and how that differs; I’ve done workshops on disabled women and domestic violence – and lots of other things!

Change is possible

We’ve really changed how the feminist campaign at Oxford has viewed disability and put it on their radar, especially in terms of accessibility. Now it’s probably the most accessible campaign, other than the disability campaign.

It’s not that people want to be inaccessible; they’re just not thinking about it. It’s really important to make sure disabled women are able to get involved in feminist campaigns and that their experiences are brought to light. By opening that dialogue we’ve really made a difference.

Rebekka smiles at the camera

Rebekka is a young campaigner on our Scope for Change training programme – which is equipping a group of young disabled people to be the campaigners of the future. To find out more about campaigns, visit our website.

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