FACTS ABOUT PROGRAMS DELIVERING BATTERED WOMEN'S SERVICES TO
WOMEN WITH DISABILITIES
Questionnaires were mailed to 2,703 programs nationwide that deliver
abuse-related services; 2200 came from the National Domestic Violence Hotline
database of programs self-reporting wheelchair accessibility. We received
Characteristics of Women with Disabilities Served by Abuse Programs
The most common number of women with physical, mental or sensory disabilities
served by a program during the past 12 months was 20, but the number served
varied widely from one program to another, ranging from 0 to 12,000 women.
The disability type most likely to receive services from an abuse program
was mental illness, whereas programs were the least likely to serve those
with visual or hearing impairments. On average, 10% of the women served
by each program had physical impairments, 7% had mental retardation or
developmental disabilities, 21% had mental illness, 2% had visual impairment,
and 3% had hearing impairment. For nearly half of the programs, less than
1% of their clients served within the past year had physical impairments.
Abuse programs on average provided two services targeted to women with
disabilities; 89% of abuse programs provided less than five special services
for women with disabilities.
The most commonly provided service available to women with disabilities
was accessible shelter or referral to accessible safe house or hotel room
(83%). A majority of abuse programs provided individual counseling (80%),
and group counseling (73%). Nearly half (47%) provided an interpreter for
hearing impaired women. Less than half (40%) presented workshops or other
training on recognizing potentially violent situations. Approximately one-third
offered safety plan information modified for use by women with disabilities
(36%), and disability awareness training for program staff (35%).
The service least likely to be offered was personal care attendant services,
available in only 6% of abuse programs.
Sixteen percent of programs have a program staff member who is specifically
assigned to provide services to women with disabilities. Respondents identified
one-quarter of these 79 staff members as being social workers by training,
while the second most common primary field of training or expertise for
this staff member was peer counseling (22%), meaning that the individual
had personal experience with abuse or disability, then rehabilitation counseling
(15%), and psychology (13%). Only a very few (less than 5 each) program
staff for disability services were nurses, other types of mental health
specialists, legal or paralegal specialists, sign language interpreters,
substance abuse specialists, or community volunteers.
When participants were asked to describe the most effective outreach services
for making women with disabilities aware of the abuse services offered
by a program, 49% of respondents suggested community presentations and
training, followed by printed materials (40%), then collaboration with
agencies and advocacy groups that serve women with disabilities (26%),
and direct service
outreach and referrals (18%).
Although 49% of respondents considered presentations in the community focusing
on the needs of abused women with disabilities to be the most effective
outreach method, only 16% of programs offered it. Distributing printed
materials was the second most frequent suggestion for outreach made by
abuse programs, but only 13% had printed information targeted specifically
to women with disabilities.
Abuse programs were also unlikely to educate law enforcement personnel
about disability-related abuse; 12% of programs provided this service.
Although women with mental illness are being served by battered women's
programs, very few women with physical, visual, or hearing impairments
are receiving services from these programs.
The majority of the programs that responded offer accessible emergency
shelter, yet few women with physical disabilities call them to request
services. Outreach in the form of presentations in the community and distribution
of printed materials is needed to make women with disabilities aware of
programs that can help them resolve abuse.
Battered women's programs need to collaborate with personal care attendant
agencies and independent living centers to enable the provision of personal
assistance services for women with severe physical disabilities at emergency
The sensitive handling of domestic violence and sexual assault against
women with disabilities should be a mandatory part of the training of law
enforcement personnel in every city. They need to be aware of the additional
measures that may be needed to keep a woman with a disability safe from
The proportion of battered women's programs that provide disability awareness
training for their staff needs to rise from one-third to 100% of all programs.
Battered women's programs that did not return surveys and that do not provide
services to women with disabilities should network with programs that do
serve women with disabilities to discover how to finance and provide these
Home About CROWD National Study
Health and Wellness Access to Health Care Abuse and Women
Community Living Educational Materials Messages from Friends
Center for Research on Women with Disabilities
3440 Richmond Avenue, Suite B - Houston, Texas 77046
Phone: 713-960-0505 Toll Free: 800-44-CROWD Fax: 713-961-3555
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Baylor College of Medicine
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Last update: 1/6/2000
Copyright © 2000 Baylor College of Medicine