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The Partnership for Health & Disability is a collaboration between public health and disability advocacy and service organizations on issues that surround health for people with disabilities in the state of Michigan. The purpose of this website is to provide tools and resources to support the health of people living with disabilities.

Race and Disability: Overlapping Identities

Racism is resonating as a public health crisis in communities, healthcare systems and public health organizations across the country, and rising awareness of systemic racism has put a spotlight on structural oppression of all kinds. Race and disability "are not completely separate sources of disadvantage that parallel each other. Instead ... race and disability are overlapping identities that are both related to systemic inequality."2

People of color with disabilities tend to have poorer health outcomes7 and poorer financial outcomes2 than people with disabilities who are white, as the effects of race and disability compound. Now more than ever, solidarity between those working for disability justice, and those working for racial justice, is critical. (see references below)

If you would like to learn more about how race and disability intersect, explore the following resources:

  1. The Disability History Association's Statement on Anti-Racism, which is also an excellent brief on how these two identities overlap.
  2. Financial Inequality: Disability, Race and Poverty in America (pdf) by the National Disability Institute.
  3. The Racialized History of Disability Activism, at The Activist History Review.
  4. Disability and the African American Experience, at the Museum of disABILITY History.
  5. Race and Disability, at Rooted in Rights, highlights the intersections of race and disability through authentic narratives.
  6. Equity in the Center: Race, Equity and Disability, a webinar by Respect Ability.
  7. Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey Annual Report (pdf)

Which aspect of healthy living do you struggle with most?

Struggling to lead a healthy life? Tell us what you most struggle with and we’ll give you some tips!

Click on the buttons to display our tips!
  • Try establishing routines for things like when you eat, time times you go to bed and wake up, and exercise.
  • Once you’ve made a routine, stick to it if at all possible.
  • It can help to have an accountability partner – someone following the same routine who can help make sure you follow through.
  • Finding an exercise that works for you is very important. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Just because a person has a disability, though, does not mean they shouldn’t exercise.
  • Try exercising with another person. They can serve as an accountability partner to ensure you keep up with your routine and can make exercising more enjoyable. Power walking with a friend gives you a chance to talk and catch up as well as get your heart rate up!
  • Finding an exercise that works for you is very important. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Just because a person has a disability, though, does not mean they shouldn’t exercise.
  • Listen to your body when it comes to exercise. If you walk up in tons of pain after running, maybe that isn’t for you. Things like swimming and using the elliptical can be more comfortable for people with joint pain, because they are low impact activities.
  • To find a program that may be more suited to your health, visit our Your Health page. In addition, your doctor may have some good ideas.
  • Finding an exercise that works for you is very important. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Just because a person has a disability, though, does not mean they shouldn’t exercise.
  • Experiment with exercising at different times in the day. If you have trouble getting going in the morning, try exercising in the evening. If you are completely out of energy by the evening, try exercising in the morning.
  • If doing 30 minutes of exercise at one time is too difficult, try breaking it down into smaller chunks of time, such as two 15 minute periods.
  • If you have something important that has to get done one day, make sure to exercise afterwards. Many people with disabilities have a limited amount of energy in a day and you don’t want to use it all up before getting something important done!
  • We all know that eating healthy is easier said than done!
  • If vegetables are not your favorite, try mixing them in smoothies. You still get the benefits without having to taste them.
  • Trying replacing white bread and white flour products with whole grains.
  • If you will be out and about and may get hungry, pack a healthy snack. An apple or some carrot sticks are better than having to stop somewhere to pick up food.
  • We all know that eating healthy is easier said than done!
  • Try to avoid snacks after dinner. If you eat at 5pm and find yourself hungry by 8pm, try shifting your dinner to 6 or 7pm. If you eat dinner a little later, you may be less likely to get hungry later on.
  • Have a glass of water by your bed when you sleep. That way, you don’t have to go into the kitchen if you get thirsty in the middle of the night. Wandering in the kitchen may tempt you into grabbing a snack while you’re there.
  • It's okay to have a sweet every now and then, as long as your health allows for small amounts of sugar intake – it’s all about moderation and portion size.
  • If you do eat a sweet, have a small one. Rather than get a large ice cream cone, try for a small. Rather than have someone else cut you a piece of cake at a party, offer to cut your own so you can control how large it is.
  • Avoid keeping sweets in your home. Rather than having a tub of ice cream stashed in your freezer, go out and get an ice cream cone every now and then. If the sweets are in the house, you are more likely to eat them more often. To go out and get this requires more motivation and thought.
  • Make your own baked goods. There are lots of recipes out there for healthier alternatives for things like cookies. Homemade can easily be more healthy than store bought, because you have control over what goes in.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a good night's sleep!
  • The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:
    School age (6-13 years old)9-11 hours
    Teenage (14-17 years old)8-10 hours
    Young adult (18-25 years old)7-9 hours
    Adult (26-64 years old)7-9 hours
    Older adult (65 years and older)7-9 hours
  • If you have trouble falling asleep, you are not alone! 48% of American report insomnia occasionally, and 22% report experiencing insomnia every or almost every night.
  • Having a regular sleep schedule can help. Try the following:
    • Go to bed and get up the same time each day
    • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature
    • Use your bed only for sleeping and not for things like reading, watching TV, or listening to music
    • Keep TV out of the bedroom completely
    • Avoid large meals before bedtime
    • Stop using electronics at least an hour before going to bed
  • If you've tried all of that and still can’t sleep, consult your doctor.
  • Everyone experiences stress every now and then – some people more than others. Keeping stress levels under control is very important to health.
  • Here are some things you can do to reduce your stress:
    • Avoid drugs and alcohol – even if it seems like they help reduce your stress, it is only temporary and makes things worse in the long run.
    • Find support – talk to your doctor, family, friends, or partner. Having someone to listen and give advice can be very helpful. Finding a support group with individuals going through similar struggles to you can also be helpful.
    • Connect socially – make sure to spend time around other people. Isolating yourself can make stress worse.
    • Take care of yourself through health eating, exercise, getting enough sleep, and keeping a routine.
  • If your stress gets worse or won't get better, talk to your doctor.