Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Faculty of Law

First Advisor

Jacobs, L.


Ableism, Disability Identity, Disability Rights, Health Care Barriers, Rights Consciousness, Women with disabilities




This thesis explores how women with disabilities understand and address their rights to preventative health care within a context of systemic barriers. As the investigator of an empirical study consisting of interviews of five women with disabilities (WWDs) who participated in a barrier-free cancer screening clinic day, I began by exploring the context within which WWDs must operate as they strive to obtain preventative health services to which they are entitled. To this end, a literature review revealed numerous barriers to health care services for WWDs across jurisdictions. In addition, human rights and accessibility legislation, primarily within the Canadian jurisdiction was explored, along with key cases related to health care access for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and WWDs. The interview data was analyzed according to grounded theory methodology, using a feminist theoretical framework and a critique of the literature related to ableism, identity development and rights consciousness. The data, supported by the literature, confirms the existence of multiple barriers to health care for WWDs, and the existence of health care ableism. Most significantly, the data suggests that health care access for WWDs centers around their relationship with their rights to access versus their relationship with the access barriers. I propose a model of rights consciousness, composed of three stages of identity: Imposed Identity, Formative Identity and Integrated Identity. Based on this model, the stages of identity development influence WWDs’ recognition of exclusion and rights infringement related to health care, as well as their decision and degree of support required to act upon it.