Disabled People Get Inferior Care

The report covered only one state, but its conclusion is disturbing: People with disabilities “fare worse” than other people in terms of physical and mental health and in their access to high-quality medical care from providers who are sensitive to their needs.

The report, “Health Needs Assessment of People With Disabilities in Massachusetts, 2013,” pretty much confirmed what’s been going on a long time – people with disabilities are treated as lesser human beings, and advanced societies like ours should be deeply ashamed. There’s no reason to think their situation in Massachusetts is any different from elsewhere in the U.S.

As reported by WBUR.org, Boston’s NPR news station, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Disability, Health and Employment Unit and the state’s Department of Public Health concluded that disabled patients often can’t get specialty medical care, and many can’t even find a doctor willing to treat even common medical conditions.

The report includes data from existing health surveys, an online survey and interviews with members of the disability community. The key findings:

  • About 25 in 100 people with disabilities is a smoker (about 16 in 100 adults without disabilities smoke).
  • Disabled people were more likely to report lifetime sexual violence compared with people without disabilities. The ratios were: disabled men, 7 in 100 vs. able men 4 in 100; disabled women, 1 in 4 vs. able women, nearly 1 in 5.
  • Adults with disabilities were nearly twice as likely to report being overweight as those without disabilities – 64 in 100 vs. 34 in 100.

But that’s only part of the raw health deal the disabled get. Nearly 3 in 4 disabled people who responded to report’s the survey were also troubled by the lack of affordable housing; nearly 2 in 3 had trouble finding adequate dental care, and about the same number had trouble finding adequate mental-health services. More than half found it difficult to find a doctor who understood disability issues, and the same number had difficulty getting transportation to a doctor’s appointment.

Communication was a problem: More than half of the respondents had trouble with support such as large-print materials, Braille and Computer Assisted Realtime Translation (CART) readers. Half had trouble managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, paying for prescription medicine and finding a doctor who accepts public health insurance. Nearly half couldn’t find an accessible gym.

According to one survey respondent, “… people with disabilities are all too often still stigmatized and that stigma leads to being seen as a less important part of the landscape and so we become an afterthought.”

That people are made to feel this is unacceptable anywhere, and especially in America.

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