Posted on April 1, 2020

Research to Aid Muslims with Disabilities Continues Despite “Shelter at Home”

RT Both, Wisconsin Muslim Journal, March 31, 2020

Although it had to cancel two events in March because of the corona virus outbreak, the Arab and Muslim Women’s Research and Resource Institute (AMWRRI) is continuing its important work on Muslims with disabilities. During the “shelter at home” order, the group will publish its findings in a newsletter for participants in its surveys and anyone else interested in improving the lives of Muslims with ability differences.

AMWRRI is a Milwaukee organization founded by Enaya Othman. The group’s slogan is “Raising Awareness Every Day.” At its founding, the organization’s initial project consisted of gathering oral histories of first, second, and third generation Arab and Muslim immigrants, according to board member Jeana Abromeit.

“Part of our mission is to provide resources to Arabs and Muslims,” Abromeit said. “We started out doing these oral histories to document what Arabs’ and Muslims’ contributions have been [and] to find out what their needs and issues are.”

The group created the AMWRRI Digital Archive to make data available for researchers and healthcare professionals. It provides access to “community-generated testimonies” and creates a “context for women’s experiences of disability by connecting them to each other and to those able to help (professionals, other community members, and the general public),” according to the Web site.

In creating the digital archive, the AMWRRI discovered that “Muslims and Arabs with ability differences have faced quite a bit of stigma both within the Muslim community as well as outside the Muslim communities,” Abromeit said.

AMWRRI founding members often have a deep, personal connection to the issue. “Quite a few of us who are on this project either have loved ones who have disabilities or are care givers to them and most of us have experienced firsthand some of these issues,” Abromeit said. She added, “I’m not Arab or Muslim; I have a family member with disabilities.”

About three years ago, the group started to discuss the fact that more needed to be done to address the issues of Muslims with disabilities. “But we weren’t sure what the needs were,” Abromeit said.

Learning more about those needs is what drives the group’s current project. To bring in as many participants as possible, AMWRRI partnered with the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition. The MMWC is a highly regarded and well established community organization with many connections in both the Muslim community and the greater Milwaukee area.

AMWRRI worked with Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition to create the Differences of Abilities and U.S. Muslims Survey, which aims to “understand the experiences and needs” of both care givers and individuals with differences in ability. Differences are defined as “any chronic health condition (including physical, intellectual, mental, emotional, or addiction condition) that affects an individual’s ability to do everyday activities related to mobility, communication, work, etc. Emotional conditions include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder.”