Several recent books join an extensive literature attesting to the preciousness of friendships among women, regardless of their attachments to men. 3 Just as disability has not been considered in feminist analysis, talk of friendship has been absent from most discussions of the lives of women or men with disabilities. Perhaps this latter omission derives from a research focus on the effect of disability on the lives of non-disabled people, rather than on the lives of disabled people themselves. Redressing this gap in feminist and disability scholarship, Berenice Fisher and Roberta Galler reflect on their own thirty-year friendship and on other pairs of disabled and non-disabled friends to discover the impact of disability on the relationship. This chapter demonstrates that disability in friendship only highlights and dramatizes issues that beset all important personal relationships -- issues of interdependence, reciprocity, discrimination in the world, and real differences in life circumstances as obstacles to be overcome.
Addressing the expectations of the community, Marilynn Phillips presents a case study of how one woman's experience of a polio-related disability was shaped by her working-class and Polish-Catholic origins. Like the nuclear family, the ethnic community can exert powerful influences on the development of social and sexual self-confidence. Phillips' subject vividly recalls her attempts to reconcile her self-image with the values of the people among whom she lives.
There is woefully little information on the role of'intimate couple relationships in the lives of disabled women. 4 We acknowledge that this volume does not sufficiently address the omission, but we predict that this reticence will not continue much longer. As more disabled people reveal more about their lives (and they are beginning to do so), they will address the conflicts and rewards of building intimate partnerships. This section concludes with a study by Barbara Levy Simon of women who have never been married and who have a disability. Simon writes of disability in women more than 65 years old, a period in life when physical limitation is nearly a majority experience. Disability, she notes, draws these never-married women away from the margins; once estranged from other women because of their single status in a coupled world, they now share a powerful connection with other women in their age group.