A group of people, some standing and others in wheelchairs, pose and smile for the camera next to a retractable banner for Tangled Art + Disability.

A group of people, some standing and others in wheelchairs, pose and smile for the camera next to a retractable banner for Tangled Art + Disability.

Women living with disabilities and physical differences are often represented negatively in our society and encounter a number of stereotypes about their abilities, needs, and interests. There is evidence that negative stereotypes inform the experiences that over two million Canadian women with disabilities and physical differences have with their health care providers and constitute a significant barrier to these women receiving satisfactory access to preventive and primary healthcare services in Canada. Existing studies indicate that encountering such barriers to health care resources is linked with an increased risk of mental health problems and chronic disease for women with disabilities and physical differences compared to disabled men and to their non-disabled female counterparts. In this qualitative, participatory arts-informed research project we analyzed and evaluated the effectiveness of two arts-based approaches to alter and transform pervasive stereotypes, including negative cultural and medical views of body differences held by health care professionals, that contribute to health inequities experienced by women living with disabilities and physical differences. The arts-based methods we used were: i) Digital stories or autobiographical videos made by health practitioners and women with disabilities and differences; and ii) Research-based drama with health providers in community and institutional settings. These methods were evaluated as successful in transforming patient-clinician interactions and enhancing clinical competences thereby improving access to and quality of health care for women living with disabilities and physical differences.