These Disability Advocates are Making Big Waves for Women

Disability advocacy has grown a lot on the last few decades. And women have been on the front line the whole time, fighting for awareness, access and inclusion for themselves and their loved ones. In honor of International Women’s Day, today we’re highlighting three women who have made major changes in the lives of women with disabilities.

Researching to Affect Change
Margaret “Peg” Nosek, PhD became a disability advocate when she went to college and had trouble setting up basic aid for herself. Knowing how much this must have affected other women, she decided to take action. She started fundraising for independent living programs, and later went on to create Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD) in 1992.

Initially, her research focused on sexuality and women with disabilities, but she quickly realized that, outside of medical information, there were lots of issues that weren’t addressed by the resources available at the time. Since then she’s gone on to research and start programs for community integration, internet resources, abusive relationships and nearly every aspect of the psychosocial and physical health of women with disabilities.

Advocating for Families

Megan Kirshbaum, PhD founded Through the Looking Glass in 1982, along with her husband, who has multiple sclerosis. The association has “pioneered research, training, and services for families in which a child, parent or grandparent has a disability or medical issue.” What started in her family’s backyard over 30 years ago has become a national organization that has helped thousands of families.

Based in the Bay area in Northern California, they offer workshops, support groups, home-based services and even a Head Start program for local families. Their National Center for Parents with Disabilities performs research and also offers consultations, training and other resources – many of them free.

Bringing the Community Together
Stephanie Ortoleva is the founder of Women Enabled International, which educates and advocates for the human rights of all women and girls, with a special focus on women and girls with disabilities. Ortoleva worked as a human rights officer for the federal government before starting Women Enabled. She also serves on numerous boards and committees – both private and public – that advocate for the rights of people with disabilities around the world.

Known for speaking up when governments and other institutions haven’t properly accommodated people with disabilities, she’s emphatic about shining a light on other female disability advocates who are on the ground every day, pushing for change.
Did these women get you fired up to do something? You can get involved too! Whether you’re a wheelchair mom with advice to share, or a professional willing to volunteer their services, the organizations listed in this blog, or iPush, which is sponsored by At Home Medical, are all great places to start.

Do you know any women who are doing big things in the disability community? Please tell us about them in the comments!

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