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Women with intellectual disability and mental health problems: the invisible victims 

Women with intellectual disability and mental health problems: the invisible victims
Women with intellectual disability and mental health problems: the invisible victims

Jane McCarthy

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date: 18 November 2017

Intellectual disability (ID) includes the presence of impaired intelligence reducing the ability to understand new or complex information (low intelligence is taken to be an intelligence quotient score below 70), with impaired social functioning, that is, reduced ability to cope independently, and disorder that presented before adulthood with a lasting effect on development. People with ID are amongst the most socially excluded and vulnerable groups. Very few have jobs and live in their own homes. Many have few friends outside their families and those paid to care for them. Recent national documentation in the United Kingdom (UK), Valuing People: A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century (Department of Health 2001) makes no reference to the different roles in society of men and women and how these roles impact on the lives of people with intellectual disability.

There has been an increase in the literature on women with ID over the past decade (Burns 2000). Researchers have not previously wanted to acknowledge gender in the lives of people with ID and assumed people with ID to be asexual and genderless individuals (Burns 1993). The issues for which feminists have worked for, such as women not to be defined sexually and for the rights to roles other than mothers, appears to be the opposite of what disabled women demand (Kallianes and Rubenfeld 1997). It may be that having ID is a more important determinant than gender on the living conditions for people with ID. A study in Sweden of people with ID looking at living conditions of adults with ID from a gender perspective (Umb-Carlsoon and Sonnander 2006) found women and men with ID participated to about the same extent in recreational and cultural activities. These findings contrast with women and men in the general population were there were clearly gender-related differences in the involvement in a number of these activities.

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