6 octobre 2016

Not everyone is in the Pink

Family hands with pink bracelets for breast cancer

Not everyone is in the Pink: On collective responsibility for Breast Cancer Awareness

“Pink madness” began showing up on football fields across North America on Sunday night and it will soon be in full swing. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and everything from blenders to football jerseys are imprinted with the ubiquitous pink ribbon, accompanied by promises from corporate sponsors that a portion of your purchase will be donated to breast cancer research or awareness.

But will women with disabilities and Deaf women find the policies, services, awareness, funds and champions to ensure we are not left out of the picture when it comes to this critical health issue for all women?

Under any lens, health care is a basic right. Human rights treaties and legislation hold up access to health care as a right here in Canada. The new federal government has committed to using the social determinants of health as a framework for new policy development. The Public Health Agency of Canada sets prevention and screening for breast cancer (and all cancers) as a high priority.

Yet we know from our research that women with disabilities and Deaf women face multiple barriers to accessing health care, including cancer screening and treatment. These include both physical and systemic barriers. Some examples include:

  • mammogram machines that require standing or specific positioning;
  • inaccessible exam tables;
  • lack of access to information in ASL video format or qualified ASL interpreters for women who are Deaf, Deafened or Hard of Hearing;
  • lack of communication supports for women who are non-verbal or spoken language interpreters for women whose second language is English or who are French speaking;
  • lack of information about cancer screening in alternative accessible formats; and
  • limited access to accessible/affordable transportation systems.
  • lack proper lighting and paths marked with textured strips for women who are blind or have vision loss.[i]


This week DAWN Canada is launching our fourth (4th) annual Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign for Women with Disabilities and Deaf Women.

Later this month you will hear from Dr. Lucie Kocum – Partnership Director at the Partnership for a Healthy Workplace Response to Breast Cancer -  one of those champions who is not just thinking about this but is indeed taking up collective responsibility by taking action. Please check back in and learn more about what they are doing and why.

We will also be sharing a number of resources, including our Breast cancer and disability report (Women with Disabilities & Breast Cancer Screening: Identified Problems, Strategies and Recommended Next Steps – An Environmental Scan 2013), a PSA (entitled “I got Screened!”) that encourages women with disabilities and Deaf women to get screened, a Learning Brief for new or current practitioners (entitled “What we know about Access to Cancer Screening for Women with Disabilities and Deaf Women”), and an infographic that summarizes some of the key barriers women with disabilities and Deaf women face

If you are a health care provider or educator we have resources and information that are important for you. If you are in research, we have questions and concerns that can help make your work relevant to all women. If you are in policy then we have recommendations for you on how to ensure equitable access to health care. If you are woman with a disability or a Deaf woman and you want to take action in your community then we want to hear from you too!

If you are a funder, donor or foundation that is focused on breast cancer then contact us to learn about how you can increase your reach to include all women in your mission.

With awareness, we can all take responsibility for ensuring that women with disabilities and Deaf women are in the pink with everyone else.