Women with disabilities are at increased risk of experiencing poverty, unemployment, housing insecurity, and homelessness. This is unacceptable, as it limits the extent to which women with disabilities can fully participate in society and live fulfilling lives. One third of Canadian women with disabilities live below the poverty line. People with disabilities are statistically paid less, and women with disabilities are paid the least. In Manitoba, women with disabilities are unemployed at almost twice the rate of able-bodied women. Higher poverty rates, along with a shortage of accessible housing units that are affordable, puts people with disabilities at greater risk of experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness.
People with disabilities still face discrimination in jobs, housing, and society. Many people with disabilities simultaneously experience other sources of discrimination and oppression, which creates additional barriers. For example, women with disabilities may also experience sexism, and Indigenous women with disabilities may also experience racism – further increasing their risk for unemployment and homelessness. Indigenous women are more than 1.5 times more likely than non-indigenous women to report at least one disability and the 2018 Winnipeg Street Census found that 46% of homeless women have a disability, compared to 37% of homeless men.
The lack of affordable housing for people with disabilities is a serious issue because it stands in contradiction to Canada’s legislation that legally recognizes the right to adequate housing as a fundamental human right.
Last week, the provincial government announced that it will be making cuts to the Portable Housing Benefit, an income support for people with mental health-related disabilities. These cuts will make it harder than ever for people with mental-health related disabilities to find safe, accessible, and affordable housing. We stand with others like Make Poverty History Manitoba in urging the provincial government to rescind the cuts to the Portable Housing Benefit.
It is important for all levels of government and for non-government organizations to make their spaces accessible to people with disabilities so that they can fully participate in the community. The West Central Women’s Resource Centre is committed to ongoing education and action toward ensuring our space is accessible to all women, including those with disabilities. Our facilities include accessible bathrooms and a shower. Our other services, including housing, income, and employment resources are also open to all women with any disabilities.
Everyone has the right to participate in society regardless of ability. But we must each do our part to eliminate the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from achieving that right. This includes providing affordable and accessible housing to all who need it.
Without making sure that everyone’s needs are met, we will never be able to end the discrimination and challenges that people face based on their abilities. (For more on gender, disability, and homelessness, read Connecting the Circle: A Gender-Based Strategy to End Homelessness in Winnipeg).