From the November-December 2022 issue of News & Letters
Forcing women and girls with disabilities to give birth could be their death sentence. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, disabled women are eleven times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth. Disabled woman Renee Schmidt wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to know that as she and her mother protested in front of the Court building. Schmidt has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which causes joints to be overly flexible. Pregnancy could kill her or worsen her disability. The U.S had the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries even before the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
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Fewer than 50% of disabled South Koreans are employed. For disabled women, that number drops to 22%. Despite the law that mandates disabled people constitute at least 3% of the workforce in companies with 50 or more employees, most of them have part-time minimum wage jobs. Disabled woman freelancer Dayeon Jeong shared her experiences online of being turned down time after time even for an interview. She is encouraged by the support she receives from those reading her story. Disabled people, with Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination and other disability rights groups, protested in South Korea’s subways during rush hour to raise public awareness about their lack of access to essential services, abuse in institutions, and elevated death rates.
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Zahida Qureshi, a disabled Pakistani woman, founded disability rights organization Society for Special Persons, which manufactures and donates wheelchairs, employing mostly the disabled. The need is greater because of an uptick of polio in Pakistan. Qureshi contracted polio as a child and, without a wheelchair, had to crawl on the floor at the schools that finally accepted her. Qureshi’s Accessible Pakistan organization succeeded in getting ramps and toilets at mosques and other buildings and making polling stations accessible and led her to become an adviser on the disabled to the Punjab government.