Monday, 9 March 2015

International Women’s Day: disability-inclusive domestic and family violence services

Yesterday was International Women's Day and to mark the occasion, Domestic Violence NSW Inc. (DVNSW) and People with Disability Australia (PWDA) have launched a toolkit designed to enhance the domestic and family violence sector's response to violence against women with disability. Australian women with disability are 37.3% more at risk of domestic and family violence. In NSW, over 43% of women experiencing personal violence have disability or a long-term illness, meaning that they experience violence at twice the rate of other women.

Many of the services designed to support women leaving violence are not physically accessible to women with disability, information about them is not available in alternative formats, and attitudes or policies may not be disability inclusive. As a consequence, many women with disability don’t get the assistance that they need. To support services to address this, PWDA and DVNSW have developed a package of three informative and practical documents covering disability awareness, an accessibility audit, and guidelines for managing change within the service. These are available today for download from the DVNSW and PWDA websites.

Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence New South Wales, said, "We know that women with disability experience barriers to accessing domestic violence support services, whilst specialist disability services may not understand the dynamics of power and control in abusive relationships. Therefore, women with disability may remain in situations of violence because they believe that services will not be able to support them. This project is designed to be a first step in addressing that gap and to encourage services to be intersectional in their philosophy, and accessible in their practice."

Therese Sands, Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia, says, "This project builds on PWDA's long experience and extensive expertise in advocating for better prevention of and response to violence against people with disability, especially women and girls. We hope that this collaborative venture will model the inclusion of women with disability for all violence prevention response programs being developed both at a state and a federal level."

The project will be piloted in domestic and family violence services in NSW, with the evaluation informing future recommendations for best practice and increased accessibility. DVNSW and PWDA will provide support to these organisations throughout this process.

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