women symbol“They are often invisible in the crime statistics and they frequently find community organizations such as domestic violence and sexual assault programs inadequately prepared to fully understand and meet their needs.” ( Impact – Volume 13 Number 3 Fall)
You may be asking yourself, who is “they”.  The “they” in the above passage are women with disabilities.
How accessible are the services at your rape crisis center for persons with disabilities?

“Rates of women with disabilities experiencing  violence ranges from 31%-83%; double or quadruple the rate among women without disabilities” (Sobsey D., Women are abuse in the lives of people with disabilities: The end of silence acceptance – Paul H Brooks Publishing Co)

From 2007-2008 I had the opportunity to participate on the Prevention of Violence Against Women with Disabilities task force sponsored through Transforming Communities.  The most prominent issue highlighted by the task force was the heightened frustrations and concern regarding how difficult it is to connect their clients with disabilities to other service providers that did not have persons with disabilities as their primary focus.
It is imperative that rape crisis centers put forth a conscious and direct effort to make their services available and accessible to persons with disabilities.  Here are few suggestions to help you get started:

  • Establish and or have an active collaborations with your local persons with disabilities organizations.
  • Provide appropriate and ongoing training to your staff regarding issues related to persons with disabilities.
  • Create an action plan regarding adapting your services for persons with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Several years ago I attended a meeting for parents of children with disabilities where a mom addressed the school board and said “I feel my daughter is unseen and excluded from being a part of this school.  What are you going to do to change that?”
I propose a similar question to you.  What are you going to do to ensure that clients with disabilities at your agency are visible and included in your overall agency plan?
CALCASA has several documents addressing how you can make your services more accessible for persons with disabilities.
Additional resources
Stop Violence Against Women with Disabilities
Disability Gov
American With Disabilities Act
US Department of Labor