Health Provider Accessibility
It’s fair to assume that people with disability are more likely to require a greater number of regular appointments with health professionals than able-bodied people, even if for check-ins, updates or regular maintenance. So, it might surprise you then that some of the most inaccessible facilities we encounter are those within the medical and health industry. You would think that health providers like doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and so forth, would be some of the more accessible places that we can go to in order to engage their services. A lot of people with disability have chronic health conditions that require us to constantly visit the same specialists for treatment and management. Trust me when I say it can sometimes feel like a roundabout of appointments. With that in mind, I’m yet to find a general practitioner in the South West that has an accessible examination table, or a hoist, in order to assist me access their services. The tables are often too high or too skinny for me to pull myself up onto, and doctors are often not permitted to physically assist. It’s the same when I visit the dentist. They’ve often got no way of getting me from my chair into the dentist’s chair, which often means I have to organise a carer – at my own expense, I might add – to come and assist me. So not only am I paying for the dentist’s services, I’m also paying an additional cost to be able to sit in the chair (as per the dentist’s requirement) as well. It mystifies me that this blatant discrimination is allowed. Why that because of my disability I’m, at best, more out of pocket than able bodied people and, at worst, turned away from obtaining their services. The irony is that I’d argue people with disability are more likely to require health services – so why is the industry not catered for us, and modified for those without disability? Why is it, again, people with disability are fighting for equality? While I’m describing my own experiences, this blog is actually the result of a conversation I recently had with another wheelchair user. They were having issues with some pressure areas on his lower back and, in order for the doctor to have a look at them to recommend a specialist, they had to get onto the examination table. But the table was too high. There was no hoist available to assist, therefore no way of actually getting onto it. Yet, the doctor refused to provide a referral unless they were able to examine. How’s the paradox? This wheelchair user was unable to get the assistance they needed for a medical issue, because the system did not cater for them. It’s unfair. It’s unjust. It’s inhumane. So what can we do about it? For fear of sounding like a broken record, I’d like to see more inclusionary behaviour and decision making when it comes to disability accessibility. We shouldn’t be an after thought – something to retro-fit into society. At minimum I’d like to see accessible treatment areas and facilities at ALL medical facilities – not just speciality fields. I’m talking GP offices, dentists, physiotherapists and the like. I’d like to see more respect and consideration given to people with disability and that our business is warranted and our needs matter. Don’t forget the power of the individual. Like the Disability Strategy 2021-2031 stipulates, real and lasting change comes from community attitudes. If we all believe accessibility is a universal right – and not just a privilege – we can create the kind of generational change that’s required.
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