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Celebrating Women’s History Month 2023

March 27, 2023
Source: RespectAbility

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, RespectAbility recognizes the important contributions made by women and people of other marginalized gender identities this month, every month, and throughout the history of the United States.

22 Million Women Live with Disabilities in the U.S.

The Census Bureau estimates that there are, in total, more than 61 million Americans living with some form of disability. It is important to note this includes more than 22 million women in the United States. There unfortunately is a lack of data regarding non-binary people with disabilities, so these statistics only include people who identify as women.

In fact, those who identify as women report higher rates of disability than their male-identifying counterparts. According to the most recent Census Bureau disability data, released by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, 13.3 percent of women living in the community (not institutionalized) in America had disabilities, compared to 12.8 percent of men in America who reported a disability in 2021.

Despite significant gains across multiple sectors of American society, disabled women still face worse employment outcomes than men with disabilities. Out of approximately 10.8 million working-age women with disabilities, only 39.3 percent had jobs, compared to an employment rate of 42.2 percent for 10.5 million working-age disabled men.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the social and economic injustices that women, and especially women with disabilities, face. Millions of women, especially mothers, have dropped out of the workforce due to caretaking responsibilities and layoffs, and Long COVID is adding tens of thousands of people to the disability community,” said Nicole LeBlanc, a nationally recognized self-advocate and RespectAbility Board member. “As a society, we must do better to ensure that our workforce can accommodate the unique needs of women and women with disabilities specifically.”

Highlighting Role Models

Women, girls, and non-binary people with disabilities need disabled role models, who can make a big difference in setting high expectations for both youth and adults with disabilities.

In recent months, the disability community mourned the passing of two such role models – Lois Curtis, who fought for the right to live in the community, free from institutional settings, and Judy Heumann, widely considered the “mother” of the disability rights movement. Curtis and Heumann were two disabled women who paved the way for tremendous progress. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we honor them, their achievements, and we rededicate ourselves to continuing their fight for full inclusion.

RespectAbility invites you to learn more about just some of the amazing women and non-binary people who have been making a difference as their full authentic selves. While we haven’t had the privilege of working with all of these tremendous advocates, we express our gratitude for their contributions, paving the way for generations of disabled women and non-binary people to come.

  • Qiana Allen: Sharing Her Journey as an Entrepreneur with Lupus
  • Maya Angelou: Legendary Poet and Civil Rights Activist Who Had a Disability, Inspires Generations
  • Khadija Bari: Becoming Her Whole Self
  • Halle Berry: Living with Disability While Taking a Stand against Domestic Violence
  • Simone Biles: Olympic & Disability Champion Makes History While Mesmerizing Many
  • Selma Blair: Positive Role Model for Success for Individuals with Acquired Disabilities
  • La’Rina Carolina: Pioneer breaking the inequality lines between deaf and hearing societies
  • Barbara Corcoran: Shark Tank Entrepreneur and Business Owner Proves Dyslexics Can Be Successful
  • Lois Curtis: Woman with Mental and Intellectual Disabilities Fights for Freedom For All
  • Andrea Dalzell: RN Who Uses a Wheelchair Treating COVID-19 Patients in NYC
  • Sneha Dave: Super Talent Creates Network for Teens and Young Adults with Chronic Health Conditions
  • Shannon DeVido: Best Summer Ever Star Shines in Comedy and Beyond
  • Collette Divitto: Showcases Importance of Supporting and Hiring Disabled Employees
  • Tammy Duckworth: Serves as Role Model for Many
  • Ashley Eakin: Changing Media Perceptions of Disability, One Film at a Time
  • Missy Elliott: ‘Works it,’ Serves as Role Model for Young Women with Disabilities
  • Shaina Ghuraya: Triple Threat Creates Space for Spectacular Intersectional Stories to Grow
  • Haben Girma: Deafblind Civil Rights Lawyer Advocates for Disability Rights in Media
  • Whoopi Goldberg: Talented Actress, Comedienne and Talk Show Host Lives with Dyslexia
  • Lori Golden: Self-Advocate and Trailblazer in Disability Inclusion in the Workplace
  • Selena Gomez: Prioritizing Health, Serving as Role Model for Young Women with Disabilities
  • Claudia Gordon: First Female Deaf Black Lawyer and Anti-Discrimination Advocate
  • Salma Hayek: Sharing Story of Dyslexia, Serving as Role Model for Latina Woman with Disabilities
  • Ketrina Hazell: “I am visible. I have worth. I can succeed.”
  • Abigail Heringer: The Bachelor Standout Calls for Intersectional Disability Visibility
  • Mazie Hirono: Recognized for Leadership as an Immigrant and as a Person with a Disability
  • Dani Izzie: Disabled Mother and Star of “Dani’s Twins”
  • Andrea Jennings: Black History Representation Matters in Arts Activism and Civic Leadership
  • Frida Kahlo: Through Art, Role Model for Artists, People with Disabilities and Bisexual Women
  • Sophie Jaewon Kim: Korean-American Actress Who is Paving the Way for Better On-Screen Representation of the Disabled AANHPI Community
  • Solange Knowles: Role Model for African American Performers with Disabilities
  • Janet LaBreck: Successful Pioneer of Change and Role Model for African American Women with Disabilities
  • Andrea Lausell: Disability Pride & Hispanic Heritage Pride as One
  • Nelly Nieblas: Combining Policy Expertise with Lived Disability Experience and Intersectional Identity to Bring Equity and Inclusion to Education
  • Carly Okyle: The Myth of Non-Progression
  • Nelle Richardson: “We are more than enough, and we are standing firmly in our truth!”
  • Diana Romero: Award-Winning Producer with Multiple Sclerosis Continues to Find Success in Hollywood
  • Cristina Sanz: First Hispanic with a Disability to Win an Emmy Award, Shatters Stigmas
  • Abigail Shaw: “You Don’t Look Blind”
  • Lauren “Lolo” Spencer: The Importance of Authentic Storytelling
  • Faith Strongheart: Bringing Compassion and Reflection in Her New Documentary “Faith Brings the Wild”
  • Harriet Tubman: Legendary Poet and Civil Rights Activist with Epilepsy and TBI, Inspires Generations
  • Donna Walton: Creates Nationwide Movement of Representation with Divas With Disabilities
  • Lexi Zanghi: “Normalizing anxiety and talking about it is so important now more than ever”
  • Lachi: NY Music Sensation & Ardent Disability Champion

Throughout our ten-year history, RespectAbility also has grown and benefited from the work of our Staff and Apprentices, a majority of whom identify as women or non-binary. Read about some of their experiences:

  • Baksha Ali: She Sees What You Cannot See
  • Ariella Barker: This Women’s History Month, I Remember the #MeToo Survivors with Disabilities
  • Kelley Cape: Queer, Quarantined, and Quitting
  • KiAnna Dorsey: Sharing the stories of underrepresented communities
  • Cami Howe: Strong Independent Woman Who Doesn’t Need A Knight in Shining Armor
  • Ana Kohout: Young Activist Aims to Change Beliefs About People with Disabilities
  • Tonya Koslo: Cancer Survivor Who is Helping Others in Need
  • Emily Kranking: A Cute But Determined Girl with Cerebral Palsy: Believe It! #DisabledandCute
  • Nicole LeBlanc: Reflecting on Women’s History Month
  • Tatiana Lee: Changing Media Perceptions of Disability, one Modeling Job at a Time
  • Laka Mitiku Negassa: Brain Injury Survivor Hopes to Support Reform of U.S. Disability Policy
  • Krista Ramirez-Villatoro: Fighting for the Rights of Disabled Latinas While Also Remembering How Far We’ve Come
  • Leah Romond: Disability and Traumatic Brain Injury Advocate “Finding Her Place in the Universe”
  • Joy St. Juste: RespectAbility Marketing and Communications Director on ADHD, Motherhood, and Defeating Ableist Expectations
  • Alejandra Tristan: Becoming Proud of My Disabled Identity as a First-Generation American
  • Anonymous: Gender, Queerness, and Dissociation

“This March, and every month of the year, we honor those of all marginalized genders, including women,” Ariel Simms, RespectAbility’s President and CEO shared. “As a non-binary person, this month means so much to me personally, and I’m grateful to the individuals mentioned above, members of our team who share this lived experience, and to the larger community of disabled women and non-binary people. We celebrate you, honor your achievements, and sincerely thank you.”

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