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With each passing day, women are leaving behind the false shame associated with the menstrual cycle and getting candid regarding their experiences. Lots of information and guides are now available that tell women all that they need to know about periods and feminine hygiene.
However, most platforms fail to take physical and intellectual disabilities into account.
Around 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability. While most women with disabilities have a normal menstrual cycle with symptoms similar to those of non-disable women, their experiences are wildly different. Resources and products required to manage periods are not designed with disability in mind. The lack of guidance and resources doubles the amount of barriers disabled women have to face.
One of the biggest hurdles women with disabilities, especially physical disabilities such as being dependent on a wheelchair, face is the lack of accessible bathrooms.
Most bathrooms built into houses and public places are not designed in a way that allows people on wheelchairs to use them.
Due to this, disable women might be forced to change their menstrual products out of bathrooms or in a place with no privacy or water. The lack of access to water and not being able to wash themselves or their hands can seriously compromise hygiene and lead to medical complications.
It is widely believed that disable women do not menstruate and have different reproductive systems. Baseless myths like these give rise to ignorance and cancel out women and young girls with disabilities from the period problem.
Period education and awareness is vital for two very important reasons. First of all, it will push responsible organisations and authorities to introduce products and facilities that are inclusive of disability.
Secondly, guardians and caretakers will be better able to help women with disabilities manage their menstrual cycle and feminine hygiene.
Women with intellectual disabilities may find it difficult to comprehend the concept of periods and instructions they need to follow. In case of women who are deaf or blind, a simple lack of communication and understanding poses a major barrier.
In all such cases, education and awareness can help women overcome their issues and maintain hygiene.
The taboo of periods is something that makes life more difficult for women all over the world. For women with disabilities, the effect of this stigma is even more pronounced.
Those who struggle to change menstrual products, such as menstrual cups and pads, by themselves, feel shame in asking for help. Studies have shown that due to this, women with disabilities do not change menstrual products as frequently as needed, which compromises their health and hygiene.
There is a wide range of period product problems that come with each disability.
For women with sensory issues or autism, mere discomfort can become a very big problem. For women on wheelchairs, changing pads and menstrual cups can be difficult.
Current period products are not inclusive of women with pain conditions, sensory problems, chronic issues, visual impairment, restricted mobility etc.
There is a huge chunk of the world’s population that can not afford reproductive healthcare and hygiene.
Statistically, disable people are more likely to live on low income and are less likely to be able to have access to clean water and all the resources they need.
On top of that, they may also have additional costs to cover for their therapies or pain management plans.
In face of the myriad of problems faced by women with disabilities, we currently have a few solutions that are already helping women overcome the hurdles they face. As a woman or a young girl with disability, you will be better equipped to tackle the period problem in the following ways:
This can help you monitor your cycle and stay prepared so that you are never caught off guard.
By trying to use different types of period products, you can find something better suited to your needs. Some brands are now making menstrual cups that can be used for up to 12 hours at a time. Other alternatives include period panties or underwear, the use of which is much easier than pads and other products.
Rising above the shame associated with periods is vital in order for you to be able to ask for help and seek healthcare when you need it. Your needs and hygiene should be a higher priority than following a false taboo.
Online platforms and communities for disable people can prove to be life-saving. Nowadays, these platforms can offer innovative solutions and can help connect you to the resources you need.