Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Jean E. Krasno

Second Advisor

Karen Struening


women and girls, disability, intersectional discrimination, disability policy, inclusion


People, including women and girls with disabilities have faced oppression and exclusion in society for centuries due to negative beliefs, stereotypes and attitudes that have led to stigma, discrimination and lack of support for them. For women and girls in particular, having a disability has historically meant that they were no longer considered beautiful and were seen as being incapable of meeting social and cultural expectations like marriage and motherhood. In recent decades, however, some progress has been made towards combating disability-based discrimination and promoting inclusion and full participation in society. Additionally, the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2006 has aided in advancing this progress as it provided an international legal framework for promoting and protecting the rights of people, including women and girls with disabilities. Despite these efforts, negative attitudes and beliefs that lead to stigma of disability are still prevalent in many parts of the world. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis is to examine how women and girls with disabilities are treated in five countries, which include Austria, Croatia, Guatemala, Norway and Singapore. All five countries have signed and ratified the CRPD. The arguments posed for this study are that the combinations of economic development with culture and subsequently feminism with economic development are some variables that heavily influence the extent to which women and girls with disabilities are excluded from or participate in their societies.

Furthermore, the CRPD has been instrumental in strongly recommending a paradigm shift from the medical model to the human rights model of disability. I discuss these two Model approaches for analyzing support provided to people with disabilities. According to the human rights model of disability, full participation for women and girls with disabilities in their societies requires both economic resources to make environments more accessible and respect for their agency and rights. It also requires meaningful steps toward educational equality, economic opportunities and political participation. On the other hand, the medical model assumes that people with disabilities are objects of charity, need to be cared for and have little to no capacity for decision making regarding their lives. It is likely that all five countries in this study will demonstrate some kind of mixture of the medical and human rights models. This study will also employ an intersectional perspective on women and girls with disabilities. Intersectionality is a term coined by civil rights lawyer and legal scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe a concept that demonstrates how forms of oppression like sexism, ableism and racism define unique groups, such as women and girls of color or women and girls with disabilities. The research is divided into five chapters with chapters 3 and 4 examining how the aforementioned variables affect the treatment of people, including women and girls with disabilities in the five countries through a comparative analysis.



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