Over a billion people, close to 15% of the world’s population, are living with some form of disability, with the rate of disability increasing due to ageing population and an increase in chronic health conditions.
Because disability is incredibly diverse, and while some conditions require more extensive health care treatment than others, all people with disabilities have the same general health care needs as everyone else and therefore need access to mainstream health services.
Because of this, greater action needs to be taken to make healthcare accessible to all people with disabilities.
What is a disability?
A disability is a condition or function that is considered significantly compared to the usual standard of an individual or group.
Disabilities can manifest in a number of different ways:
- mobility and physical impairments
- spinal cord disability
- head injuries/brain disability
- vision disability
- hearing disability
- cognitive or learning disabilities
- psychological disorders
- invisible disability
Disability is viewed as a multidimensional experience — the specific type of disability can have numerous effects on daily life, from putting health at risk to significantly impacting the social experience of the individual.
The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) recognise three dimensions of disability: body structure and function (and the impairment thereof); activity (and the restriction thereof); and participation and the restrictions placed on that by disability.
Challenges facing people with disabilities seeking healthcare
People with disabilities remain particularly vulnerable to deficiencies in health care services.
These deficiencies exacerbate secondary conditions, which occur in addition to and as a result of, the disability. Conversely, people with disabilities can also suffer from co-morbid conditions, which occur in addition to but not as a result of, a disability.
Some studies have shown that people disabilities are more prone to risky behaviour, as well as premature death risks, which vary according to the disability in question — ultimately, however, people with disabilities also have a lower life expectancy.
Combating these developments can be difficult, since people with disabilities face complex barriers when trying to access mainstream health care, including:
- prohibitive costs
- limited availability of service
- physical barriers
- inadequate skill and knowledge of health workers
What can be done to make healthcare more accessible?
Doctor’s rooms, clinics and other healthcare providers need to be more accessible, not only because it encourages people with disabilities to seek out health care (which is less likely to be routine), but because it means that minor issues can be caught and treated before they become more serious.
Part of this is the simple physical accessibility of examination rooms, include a clear entry and exit route, wide doorways and adequate floor space for movement.
Accessible medical equipment, which can be used to safely and comfortably treat people with disabilities is key to providing accessible health care and ensuring people with disabilities receive health care treatment equal to those without disabilities.
One of the most critical components of more accessible healthcare for people with disabilities is the appropriate and ongoing training of medical staff. Staff must also know which examination and procedure rooms to use, as well as trained in the equipment used.
Staff that understand what assistance is needed, if any, and how to provide it will go a long way to providing safe and accessible healthcare to people with disabilities.
© 2004 – 2016 Disabled World™. (n.d.). Disablity: Definition, Types & Models. Retrieved 11 8, 2016, from Disabled World: towards tomorrow: http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/types/
© WHO 2016. (2016, 11). Disability and health. Retrieved 11 8, 2016, from World Heatlh Organisation: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs352/en/
Peterson, T. J. (2015, 12 28). Meantal Health Disability Definition: Are you Eligible. Retrieved 11 8, 2016, from HEALTHYPLACE America’s Mental Health Channel: http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/mental-health-disability-definition-are-you-eligible/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010, 7). Access To Medical Care For. Retrieved 11 8, 2016, from http://www.ada.gov: https://www.ada.gov/medcare_mobility_ta/medcare_ta.htm