NWAC envisions inclusive communities accessible to all Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people with disabilities to feel a part of their social network. Everyone deserves to reach their full potential and build a strong identification of who they are.
“I would like to see cultural/spiritual support that is centralized and that I can use in every day situations…in a practical way with all my family members. As in one place that can support all my needs and the needs of my family members. They all need support and so do I to continue supporting them.” 1
– FNWAC survey participant (2017). Two online surveys were distributed to Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse peope who self-identified as having or being the caretaker of someone with a disability, functional impairment or mental health disorder.
Disability is characterized as the result of a complex and dynamic relationship between an individual’s health condition, personal factors and external factors that create the circumstances of one’s life; interactions with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. In 2012, 22% of Indigenous women aged 15 and older reported having a disability that limited their daily activities, compared with 15% of the total female population in Canada.1 The significance of this statistic becomes clear in conjunction with the fact that women and girls with disabilities experience physical and sexual assault at four times the national average.2
Indigenous people are more likely to acquire a disability than to be born with one due to influential environmental factors including a lack of access to quality health care systems and specialized equipment, a high risk of disease such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS, the prevalence of poverty, malnutrition, the systemic disempowerment of women and girls, and more (NWAC Report, April 2018).
In 2017, two surveys conducted by the Native Women’s Association of Canada were completed by Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people who self-identified as having or being the caretaker of someone with a disability. The need to address discrimination, and systemic and structural barriers was found. Most of the participants encountered accessibility difficulties when accessing federal services or programs, especially employment services.
From these findings, NWAC has proposed recommendations to create a more accessible and inclusive environment for Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people with disabilities. The recommendations include providing all communities and demographics with equal access to quality programs and services, investing in training and education to eliminate violence, barriers and stigma, empowering individuals through independence, and providing cultural, traditional and holistic services.
1. Invest in better training for Indigenous service providers to create more reliable and accessible services and reduce barriers to culturally appropriate programming.
2. Empower Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse individuals with disabilities and functional limitations to work in their fields of passion and support their socio-economic independence.
3. Implement the universal design model with an Indigenous and gendered lens across transportation, infrastructure, telecommunications, etc. to facilitate the full inclusion of people with disabilities.
- FNWAC survey participant (2017). Two online surveys were distributed to Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people who self-identified as having or being the caretaker of someone with a disability, functional impairment or mental health disorder.
- Statistics Canada. (2009). First Nations, Métis and Inuit Women, in Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada
- National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. (2004). Violence Against Women with Disabilities. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada.