Access to Disability Data

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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 7: Research Gaps and Topics for Further Investigation

This chartbook presents statistical information on women and girls with disability, based primarily on large national-level surveys. Other research studies have been conducted on the topics of gender and disability that are not included in the chartbook because they cannot be generalized to the national level. Until quite recently, research on disability focused more on commonalities among people with disability, rather than addressing gender-related differences (Fine & Asch, 1988). As a result, less is known about the unique characteristics and experiences of girls and women with disability. Clearly, the information presented here only begins to investigate issues of gender and disability. The material presented in this chartbook makes it clear that there is still much research to be done, and that there are many challenges facing women and girls with disabilities. These findings point to the need for more policy attention to the needs of girls and women who have a disability.

Below, we give examples of some of the gaps in research on girls and women with disabilities that are suggested by the chartbook findings and other studies.

Girls and young women: Relatively little has been written about the characteristics and experiences of girls and young women with disabilities. The chartbook raises a number of questions needing further investigation.

Adulthood: Gender inequalities in work, income, and benefits are central issues facing women with disabilities. The chartbook raises a number of research questions about women with disabilities and their participation in the labor force that must be answered with further research.

Adult women with disabilities also face non-work-related challenges. The chartbook raises a number of research questions about other kinds of issues faced by women with disabilities during middle adulthood.

Aging: Women, including those with disabilities, are living longer and healthier lives. However, older women with disabilities continue to face threats to their independence, multiple health conditions, increased health care needs and high medical expenses. The following questions represent some of the needs for research on older women with disabilities that are suggested by the research presented in this chartbook and by other studies on elderly women with disabilities:

Many important issues in gender and disability are relevant to girls and women across the entire lifecycle. Research from the Center on Emergent Disability suggests that women, given their higher rates of poverty, are disproportionately represented among emerging disabilities due to domestic violence, inadequate prenatal care, adolescent pregnancy, poor nutrition, and other factors (Center on Emergent Disability, 1997). Barriers to medical care also affect females with disability at all ages. More research is needed on availability, use and quality of health care for girls and women with disabilities. Research on minority girls and women with disabilities is especially vital as the population of the United States becomes more ethnically diverse. Many questions raised in the chartbook are left unanswered. We hope that the identification of gaps in knowledge will encourage research and public policy changes to address these issues that affect girls and women with disabilities across the life cycle.