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National NOW Times >> Fall 2003 >> Article

Women with Disabilities and Allies Link Arms at Forum

by Kim Burrow, Communications Intern

Women with Disabilities and Allies Forum: Linking Arms for Equality & Justice for All

Women living with and without disabilities share many of the same concerns and challenges. As they follow their dreams, barriers can include limited access to employment, education, financial security and medical services.

NOW and the NOW Foundation are dedicated to creating a world where all women, disabled or not, are valued, respected and encouraged to realize their full potential. To further this goal, the NOW Foundation and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) decided to co-sponsor "Women with Disabilities and Allies Forum: Linking Arms for Equality and Justice for All" in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 17-19, 2003.

The NOW Foundation and the AAPD have worked to identify and bring together a diverse group of women from across the country—both activists and advocates—to discuss a broad range of issues, share ideas, give support and forge an alliance committed to creating a more just and equal world.

"All women share the dream of full equality, economic and personal independence, educational and employment opportunity, reproductive freedom and full participation in society," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "Women living with disabilities face multiple forms of discrimination, making it even harder to achieve their goals. Breaking downhese barriers is a longstanding priority of NOW and the NOW Foundation, and we are thrilled to work with AAPD on this important issue."

The AAPD is the country's largest cross-disability membership organization, promoting the economic and political empowerment of all 56 million children and adults with disabilities in the United States. It was founded in 1995 to help unite people with disabilities, their families, friends and supporters, and be a national voice for change in implementing the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

"This forum crosses the boundaries of sexism and ableism as we work together on mutual concerns," said Stephanie Ortoleva, co-chair of NOW's Disability Rights committee.

A reception and entertainment on Friday evening launches the forum at the Hyatt Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland. Saturday and Sunday feature plenary sessions, workshops and panel discussions. The topics on the forum agenda include:

  • economic empowerment
  • the state of civil rights
  • political activism and grassroots organizing
  • abortion, reproductive rights and custody issues
  • health care and caregiving
  • violence against women and inaccessibility of shelters
  • aging and disability
  • lesbians with disabilities
  • young women with disabilities
  • body image
  • bringing together the disability rights and feminist movements
"Now more than ever, disability rights advocates must cultivate diverse allies in our common struggle for justice, dignity, and respect for human and civil rights. AAPD is delighted to have worked with the NOW Foundation to bring together leading activists and organizers for an historic opportunity to reinforce and reinvigorate our combined efforts to achieve equality, empowerment, and justice for all," said AAPD President and CEO Andrew J. Imparato.

"Women with Disabilities and Allies Forum: Linking Arms for Equality and Justice for All" provides a unique opportunity for activists and newcomers to motivate, teach and inspire each other in a supportive setting.

For more information on the Forum, go to

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