Disabled Women on the Web

Disabled Women on the Web

Legislative Briefing Papers on Disabled Young Women

Kathy Martinez Talk FINAL

Multiple Barriers for Disabled Girls and Young Women

Open with:

•  There are a number of very specific issues about health care as it relates to girls of color with disabilities that I would like to address:

As a rule, disabled girls of color are often the last in their family to receive health care. For a number of reasons including that typically nondisabled males receive medical care first; and because of delayed treatment, disabled girls are often sicker when the family finally seeks care for them.

Elana had a physical disability, not seen as sexual by her family and community. One day, the family noticed that something was wrong and took her to the doctor. The doctor also saw her as asexual so she was not screened for STDs. So by the time her gonorrhea was finally diagnosed it was very advanced. Attitudes from both family and doctor resulted in limited care.

I have a personal example that shows the other side of the coin: I was born blind. And I received medical care at the UCLA eye clinic. So they kept telling my parents that if they kept bringing me back, I would gain sight. So I would have these horrible visits where I would be examined by lots of doctors and medical students. These procedures were uncomfortable and invasive.

Of course, my sight never changed. The point is, first of all, my parents were asked to sign forms each time that they could obviously not understand. The carrot of hope was constantly dangled in front of them. And it was clear by age 6 that my vision was not going to change.


A significant number of disabled girls in California live in families where English is not the primary language and where a parent may or may not be fluent in English. Mothers need to make many medical appointments as well as deal with numerous medical professionals who will only speak English. Unfortunately for girls with disabilities and their families, nearly all disability-specific services, such as audiology or physical therapy, are provided by English-only speakers.


I want to finish by saying :

•  Because there is not an accessible way provided to fill out forms, often the receptionist will insist on filling out the paperwork in the patient waiting room even though this information is private (such as billing or SSN). I have wondered many times when my personal information is being broadcast around the lobby who is listening? Is this because I am a woman of color who is blind?

•  As aging, violence and poverty all contribute to the increase of disability among women of color, I would urge you to consider the development of measures to asses health care that assumes the need for quality health care for women of color with disabilities.


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Updated 3/26/2004