Inclusive, empowering, respectful – the Women’s mission to improve care and employment for people with disability

Dr Chrissy Thompson with her partner and son.
3 December 2021 |

For International Day of People with Disability (3 December), the Royal Women’s Hospital is highlighting the unique and powerful ways health services can work to change attitudes and behaviours that discriminate against people with a disability, to ensure access, equity and inclusion for patients and staff.

Dr Chrissy Thompson gave birth at the Women’s to baby Artemis in June 2021. The 31-year-old has a physical disability which affects her mobility and went through the hospital’s Women with Individual Needs (WIN) Clinic.

“The WIN clinic was phenomenal and made all the difference throughout my pregnancy and after I gave birth. Under midwife Cherise’s care, I felt safe and confident when I delivered my baby in June, ” she said.

As a former patient, Chrissy was inspired to join the Women’s Disability Action Plan Advisory Committee. The commitee is made up of women and staff with lived experience of disability, who meet quarterly to provide advice and support the hospital as it works to enhance the healthcare and employment outcomes of patients and staff with lived experience of disability.

“I really love the expression ‘Nothing about us, without us’ and have valued having a seat at the table through the Women’s Disability Action Plan Advisory Committee," Chrissy said. 

"We know that women with disabilities experience frequent discrimination and poorer health outcomes, including for people giving birth. It’s wonderful that the Women’s is working hard to address this in health settings and listening to the views of people with lived experience.”

Chief eXperience Officer at the Women’s, Sherri Huckstep, acknowledged there is still much to be done to reduce stigma and discrimination and ensure all health services are inclusive and accessible for patients and staff.

“Nearly one in five women and girls live with disability and we know that women with disability experience poorer health outcomes due to inequities associated with gender and disability,” she said.

“We are determined to be an inclusive, empowering and respectful hospital that provides fair and easy access to healthcare, and a safe and supportive work environment for our staff with a disability. From dedicated clinical and support services, increasing access and flexibility through telehealth, and staff education and training, we are making progress but acknowledge there is always improvement to be had.”

The Women’s inaugural Disability Action Plan (DAP), launched in 2019, has kept the hospital’s focus on accessibility, targeted services, and changing attitudes and behaviours that discriminate against people with a disability. The DAP also advocates for increasing employment opportunities and promoting inclusion and community participation.