Looking for Solidarity in the Margins
by Tanis Doe
Can women as a group be compared to people with disabilities as a group? Yes and no. Women are too often assumed to be non-disabled and people with disabilities are assumed to be genderless. Biology is destiny, or it is not; for both women and people with disabilities this is a constant issue in political and personal lives. This article will explore some of the difficulties that women and people with disabilities have faced independently and together in their struggle to ensure questions of access and equity are part of the national training agenda.
Having disabilities compared to being "normal" is only slightly the same as what being female is to being male. Because of the presumption of normality and deviance there are considerable similarities; but in reality, people with disabilities have physical and/or mental limitations that are qualitatively different from the sex differences between men and women.
There are non-disabled allies working within the consumer movement of people with disabilities and there are men with disabilities who outwardly support women's equality. But it is the interaction and cooperation among women with disabilities which links the so called "groups" of women and people with disabilities. The needs of women and the needs of people with disabilities are very different and, even though women with disabilities experience both, they also have unique needs that neither men with disabilities nor women without disabilities experience.
Marginal Participation and
People with disabilities and women are competing with mainstream power-brokers over places at the table where decisions about the Labour Force Development Strategy are being made. Many of these decisions surround the economic problem of employment or, rather, unemployment. In the process of trying to develop skills, become more employable and, in fact, achieve a living wage, the most common experience for women and people with disabilities has been of marginalization, not integration.