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When even getting weighed in the doctor’s office presents challenges …

A persistent problem for men and women with disabilities remains access to medical care. After the Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect 30 years ago, it became possible to get into a doctor’s office or medical clinic as ramps replaced outdoor steps, doorways were widened and elevators became common.

But once inside medical offices, challenges remained.

“Laws meant to prohibit discrimination against the disabled fall short when it comes to visiting the doctor’s office, leaving patients with disabilities to navigate a tricky obstacle course that … jeopardizes their care,” reported the Washington Post in 2018. For example, some offices are not equipped to weigh patients who use wheelchairs.

The ADA requires that “fixed structures” be accessible, but it doesn’t address “furnishings” not attached to buildings. That means patient scales, exam tables, and diagnostic equipment are not required by law to be accessible.

Early in 2017, the U.S. Access Board issued accessibility standards for medical equipment, such as examination tables and chairs, scales and radiological, mammography and other equipment. But, according to the Post “the Trump administration stopped action on this change as part of its sweeping effort to roll back regulations across the federal government.”

People who live with disabilities are at risk in other ways. For example, women with disabilities are 30 percent less likely to receive breast cancer and other forms of cancer screening, which is directly linked to disparate health outcomes unrelated to a patient’s disability, according to U.S. News and Report.

While health care is frequently in the news, few stories include the perspectives of people living with disabilities, who can describe the challenges they face in vivid, personal detail.

For more information:

U.S. News and World Report:

The Washington Post:–and-the-laws-cant-help/2018/10/26/1917e04c-d628-11e8-aeb7-ddcad4a0a54e_story.html


By Susan LoTempio​, board member, National Center on Disability and Journalism
Contact Susan on Twitter @slotempio or via email at