It’s a simple fact. People with disabilities routinely can’t get basic health care.
People with physical disabilities are invisible in the healthcare system. Plain and simple, they cannot access basic primary care that most of us take for granted – things like annual physicals, routine health screenings and medical tests. There are structural barriers, like just getting into the exam room. There are equipment-related barriers, like not being able to get onto an exam table, get into an MRI machine, or stand to have a mammography or other diagnostic test. When people with disabilities are able to get in the door, they face office staff, medical technicians, nurses and doctors who have not been trained to provide them with care.
The consequences of this lack of access to preventative healthcare for people with disabilities is poorer health, delayed diagnoses and premature death. ICS is working overtime to change this. With a grant from the New York State Health Foundation, we have created a blueprint for primary care, outlining the steps to make healthcare accessible for people with physical disabilities by making changes in healthcare facilities and equipment, policies and procedures, and staff training.
Thanks to a team of advisors including primary care physicians and other clinicians, health care administrators, public policy experts and disability rights advocates, the routine barriers that people with physical disabilities face are addressed in the blueprint by breaking down the complex accessibility issues into reasonable steps that any medical provider or practice can adopt, including structural obstacles, lack of proper equipment and attitudes about the needs and lives of people with disabilities that get in the way of providing care. Providers are urged to begin with simple fixes, such as making the facility easier to navigate for patients who use wheelchairs or walkers; purchasing wheelchair-accessible weight scales, patient transfer lifts and adjustable height exam tables. Recommendations are provided for disability sensitivity and awareness training for staff.
The blueprint offers primary care providers practical, common sense solutions, rather than present an overwhelming, tear-down-the-walls-and-start-over approach. Our goal is to help open the eyes of primary care providers and healthcare policymakers, as well as lawmakers and regulatory agencies, so that they are able to see people with physical disabilities as a severely underserved population whose healthcare needs must be met.
Blueprint for Primary Care
Please join us in this important work by sharing the blueprint, which you can find here, with your health care providers, colleagues, family and friends. We can also provide printed copies of the blueprint. To request these please call the ICS Health Access Program at 718.907.1614 or email email@example.com.