1. Women with disabilities have
limited opportunities to establish romantic relationships.
Compared to women without disabilities, women with disabilities were less
satisfied with how often they date and perceived more constraints on attracting
Even when women with disabilities were outgoing
with strong social skills and many friends, their friendships were less
likely to evolve into romantic relationships than for able-bodied women.
The large majority (87%) of the women with
disabilities had had at least one serious romantic relationship or marriage.
Fifty-two percent were involved in a serious relationship at the time of
the study versus 64% of the women without disabilities.
Among the women with disabilities who were
not married or in a serious relationship at the time of the study, 42%
said it was because no one had asked them. Only 27% of women without disabilities
listed that as a reason for not being in a relationship.
More than half of the women with disabilities
believed that disability was not a major cause of the ending of a marriage
or other serious relationship.
Only 38% of the women with disabilities in
this sample had borne children compared to 51% of women without disabilities.
Women with disabilities were significantly
more likely than those without disabilities to stay in a bad marriage for
fear of losing custody of their children.
2. Self-esteem in women
with physical disabilities is more strongly influenced by social and environmental
factors than by the fact of having a disability.
More than three-quarters of the women with
disabilities had high self-esteem and a positive body image. Whether the
woman had a severe disability or a mild disability, incurred disability
earlier or later in life, or had ever been in special education didn't
make much difference in self-esteem.
Women who were working, who were in a serious
romantic relationship, or who had never experienced physical or sexual
abuse reported high self-esteem, whether or not they had a disability.
Among women who were not working, not in a serious romantic relationship,
or who had experienced physical or sexual abuse, the women with disabilities
had much lower self-esteem than the women without disabilities.
3. Abuse is a very serious
problem for women with disabilities. They have even fewer options for escaping
or resolving the abuse than women in general.
The same percentage (62%) of women with and
without disabilities had experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse,
but women with disabilities experienced abuse for longer periods of time.
In addition to the types of abuse experienced
by all women, women with disabilities were sometimes abused by withholding
needed orthotic equipment (wheelchairs, braces), medications, transportation,
or essential assistance with personal tasks, such as dressing or getting
out of bed. Women with disabilities face serious barriers to accessing
existing programs to help women remove violence from their lives.
4. Women with physical
disabilities have as much sexual desire as women in general; however, they
do not have as much opportunity for sexual activity.
Ninety-four percent of the women with disabilities
had had sexual activity with a partner in their lifetime. Forty-nine percent
were sexually active at the time of the study, compared to 61% of women
Forty-one percent of the women with disabilities
believed that they did not have adequate information about how their disability
affects their sexual functioning.
Women with disabilities reported significantly
lower levels of sexual activity, sexual response, and satisfaction with
their sex lives.
Level of sexual activity was not significantly related to
severity of disability.
5. Women with physical
disabilities encounter serious barriers to
receiving general and reproductive health care.
Thirty-one percent of the women with physical
disabilities who participated in this study were refused care by a physician
because of their disability.
Women with physical disabilities reported
considerable difficulty locating physicians who were knowledgeable about
their disability to help them manage their pregnancy.
More women with physical disabilities reported chronic
urinary tract infections, heart disease, depression, and osteoporosis at
younger ages than the comparison group of women without disabilities.
There was a much higher rate of use of public
health clinics, specialists, and emergency departments among women with
disabilities compared to women without disabilities.
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: 1/5/1999
Copyright © 1999 Baylor College of Medicine