Expect barrier-free health care

By Cindy Powell

People with disabilities are less likely to receive routine preventative health care than people without disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires health care providers to give accessible services to patients who disclose disabilities.

Cindy Powell

Cindy Powell is a training and development specialist at Carmel Community Living Corporation and its nonprofit ACESO Foundation. She advises businesses, employers, government agencies and nonprofits about best practices for people with disabilities.

  • Health care professionals would benefit from training in serving individuals with disabilities throughout all public areas in a health care facility such as the cafeteria, emergency rooms, gift shop, inpatient facilities requiring overnight stay, long-term care/rehabilitation facilities, outpatient facilities with no overnight stay, pharmacies and surgical units.
  • A patient with a disability cannot be denied service because it might take longer to examine them. Some examinations are simply lengthier than others. All patients, those with or without disabilities, must be provided with thorough medical examinations regardless of how much insurance reimbursement the health care provider will receive.
  • A patient with a disability should not wait longer than a patient without a disability. A prudent scheduler should ask every patient requesting an appointment if they require assistance. The health care provider can then reserve a room with an accessible examination table whenever a patient discloses a mobility disability.
  • Accessibility requests should be documented in every patient’s chart, so health care providers are prepared to accommodate and assist all patients as required during every visit. It is also imperative that health care personnel receive training to safely transfer patients to and from mobility aids to medical equipment.
  • When accessible medical equipment is acquired, staff should immediately learn how to operate it. Adjustable examination tables can be adjusted to the same level as a wheelchair: 17-19 inches above the floor. Examinations are more thorough when patients are lying on an examination table. Patients should not be examined while seated in their wheelchairs unless the examination does not require that a person lie down. When examinations are provided to patients while seated in their wheelchairs they do not receive equal medical services as required by the ADA.
  • All patients, regardless of disability status, are entitled to go to medical appointments alone. Health care providers cannot require patients who have disabilities to bring companions or their personal care attendants to assist during medical examinations. However if the patient chooses to bring a friend, family member or assistant, before beginning an examination, the health care professional should ask the patient whether their companion can remain in the room while discussing a diagnosis, test results or treatment.
  • Health care personnel should talk directly to patients rather than companions. Providers should ask patients whether they require assistance, and if so, specifically how they may assist. Examples include, but are not limited to, assisting the patient with dressing and undressing and getting on and off and maintaining positioning on an examination table.
  • Tenants and landlords are equally responsible for complying with the ADA. When leasing a space, the lease should specify who is responsible for some or all of the accessibility requirements. The tenant is frequently responsible for the space it uses, such as the examination and waiting rooms. The landlord is usually responsible for the common space used by more than one tenant, such as restrooms.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *