Through a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, Roosen plans to survey disabled women to find out if they have “faced many barriers to treatment or to making healthy lifestyle choices; do they see their experiences as different from those of able bodied people; and do they feel misunderstood.”
According to the research literature, women with disabilities have an increased risk of developing an eating disorder, but these same women are not showing up at programs designed to deal with the issue, says Roosen, who studies in York’s Faculty of Health.
“Obesity is higher in physically disabled women, as there is a lack of access to various healthy lifestyle programs and lack of ability for physical activity,” says Roosen. Doctors often encourage these women to diet, yet they’re not given appropriate accessible resources. “Hearing their stories has made me want to work with them, as I felt it was an area that is being overlooked.”
Having conducted a clinical practicum at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health for women with eating disorders, she has witnessed the lack of involvement of disabled women first-hand. That’s when she began to ask questions, such as: are eating disorders programs set up to handle a disabled person? She believes the answer will be no.
Roosen knows intimately some of the barriers experienced by young physically disabled women. She was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 12. During her time at York, she has been a strong advocate for disabled students.
She has published two chapters on body image and one article on disability and psychotherapy, and frequently speaks to the community on disability awareness, eating disorders and body image in women.
Roosen has previously won the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award and a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
For more information about the grant for Canadian Women Graduate students, visit the Soroptimist Foundation of Canada website.