Monday, October 11, 2010

Access to Health Care for Women with Disabilities

People with disabilities, particularly women are less likely to access routine health care.

Disparities in health care for women with disabilities are well-documented. Studies have shown that people with disabilities are twice as likely to go without medical care as people without. And women with disabilities are more likely than men with disabilities to go without health care.

People with disabilities are twenty percent of the population –a percentage that will grow as the baby boomer generation ages.

The Americans with Disabilities Act might have required that ramps allow people with physical disabilities to get into buildings – but many say compliance stops there. Getting unto an examination table is difficult. Scales can’t always accommodate a person with mobility issues. And radiology equipment isn’t always especially built for the disabled. The ones that are aren’t readily made or distributed. And working with a person with a disability might take more time and resources – something medical professionals may lack. And spending hours with a patient goes against the grain of a culture that focuses on productivity.

There is also a dignity issue – for a patient, as uncomfortable as something might be - nobody wants to ask for accommodation.

Some of this is likely to change with health care reform. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act calls for removing barriers and improving access to wellness for people with disabilities. It authorizes the United States Access Board, a federal agency whose mission is accessibility for people with disabilities, to develop new standards for medical diagnostic equipment – including exam tables, chairs, weight scales, x-ray machines and mammography equipment.

In Pittsburgh, last week, a forum was held last week in Pittsburgh regarding this issue.

Listen to the story here.

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