People with disabilities may experience barriers to health care access. Some of these barriers include: high cost of services, limited services, physical barriers, and a lack of skills and knowledge on the part of health care providers.26
Access to comprehensive, quality health care services is important for the achievement of health equity and for increasing the quality of a healthy life for everyone.7 Health care access is a twofold issue. People with disabilities also need to be health literate and advocate for themselves regarding barriers to health care and access. (See Health Literacy) Also, health care professionals and public health professionals need to be aware of barriers to accessing health care for people with disabilities and create an inclusive atmosphere for communication.
Example: With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Illinois Disability and Health Program collaborated with the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield (SIU) to develop a disability awareness course for second-year medical students. The goal was to build a foundation of communication skills for better care and interaction with patients with disabilities. A panel presentation focused on the experiences of five people with disabilities: a person with visual impairment, a person with hearing impairment, a person with speech impairment, a person with a mobility limitation, and the parent of a child with a developmental disability. Each described their experiences accessing health care and offered tips on cultural sensitivity and disability etiquette. The program will continue to recruit additional health professional training programs and assist them in adding this important component to their curriculum. With awareness training available early in their careers, the next generation of medical providers will be able to reduce the barriers that people with disabilities currently face.