There are many issues to be aware of that impact the lives of people with disabilities. These emerging issues should be considered when planning public health programs.
Housing – For many people with significant and long-term disabilities safety and accessibility in housing is an issue. As the population ages the incidence of people with disabilities may increase, and so will the danger of falls and injury. For people with mobility issues, having housing that is accessible and safe (entrances with no steps, no lead paint in older homes, wide entrances) is a daunting task. Also having communities that are safe and accessible is also a challenge (curb cut outs, sidewalks, accessible exercise facilities, and parks).
Emergency Preparedness – Mobility and other challenges for people with disabilities can add difficulty when emergencies arise. Emergency preparedness for people with disabilities that take into account challenges and issues is essential for public safety.
Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging – As people age they may experience some form of disability. Also as people who have disabilities age their needs change as well. Older people with disabilities need sustainable environments free of hazards and accessibility challenges.
Preventive Screening – People with disabilities have a greater incidence of chronic disease than people without disabilities.1 Because of this there is a greater need for people with disabilities to have access to preventative screenings for chronic health issues. Because of issues like access and cost there may be barriers to preventative screening that public health professionals should be aware of to help decrease health disparities for people with disabilities.
Transportation – People with disabilities may have difficulty accessing transportation services. Transportation is vital for people with disabilities to access health care, employment and life in the community.
In Montana, one in four adults has a mobility limitation, and many require special equipment for mobility. However, fewer than 20% of Montana homes are “visitable” and finding accessible housing is a major challenge for people with disabilities who want to live independently in the community. A lack of accessibility in a home can lead to greater possibility of falls, decreased independence, and isolation.
The Oregon Office on Disability and Health (OODH) developed the “Ready Now! Emergency Preparedness Toolkit” and a complementary interactive training for people with disabilities living independently and semi-independently in the community. “Ready Now!” encourages self-reliance, teaching people with disabilities how to prepare and care for themselves in case of an emergency. Participants learn to identify emergency situations, develop personal contact lists, and assemble “to-go bags” and “72-hour kits,” care for their pets and service animals during an emergency, develop evacuation plans, and update emergency preparedness plans regularly.
Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging
The CDC Healthy Aging Research Network (HAN) brought together diverse communities and multi-disciplinary expertise from across the country to identify and address health promotion needs for healthy aging, with particular focus on populations that bear a disproportionate burden of illness and disease. Strong partnerships at local, regional and national levels were fundamental to HAN’s successes. Through these partnerships, HAN delivered on a mission to:
- Better understand the determinants of healthy aging in diverse populations and settings;
- Identify, develop and evaluate programs and policies that promote healthy aging; and
- Translate and disseminate research into effective and sustainable public health programs and policies throughout the nation.
The Building Healthy Communities For Active Aging – National Recognition Program supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages and rewards existing and new communities to design senior friendly neighborhoods and environments with an emphasis on physical fitness and activity using “smart growth” and “active aging” concepts so that seniors can “age in place.”
The Right to Know Campaign is a breast cancer education project developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The campaign uses health promotion materials to target and encourage women with physical disabilities to get a mammogram.
The Oregon Office on Disability and Health (OODH) takes this campaign one step further by promoting breast cancer screenings for women with ALL types of disabilities, including women with sensory and/or cognitive disabilities. Oregon does this by ensuring that all activities, educational materials and trainings include information targeting women with all forms of developmental, cognitive and intellectual disabilities. In addition, OODH provides trainings and resources to health care professionals on how they can best serve the needs of women with various types of disabilities.
In Gainesville, Florida, the fixed-route bus system is the city’s primary form of public transportation. Although individuals with disabilities are offered a reduced fare, or are able to ride free of charge (if they have an ADA identification card), many have to rely on expensive and limited paratransit services instead of riding the bus. In a partnership between the Center for Independent Living of North Center Florida and the University of Florida’s College of Public Health, students used a Bus Stop Checklist published by Easter Seals Project Action to conduct a systematic accessibility assessment of the 254 bus stops located along four bus routes. Of the 254 bus stops assessed, only 15 (5.9%) met the criteria necessary to be deemed accessible. The findings were presented at a community meeting and again during a City Commission meeting, which prompted a motion carried that required the Regional Transit System to submit a report on the current ADA compliance of their bus stops, along with cost estimates for making suggested improvements.