Every year, the second Monday of May is National Women’s Checkup Day and it is part of National Women’s Health Week. National Women’s Health Week starts on Mother’s Day every year and is a weeklong health observance to remind women and girls to make their health a priority and take care of themselves. It is especially important to remind and encourage girls and women with disabilities to make their health a priority and go for a checkup. According to the National Council on Disability, people with disabilities tend to be in poorer health. They also use health care at a significantly higher rate than people who do not have disabilities. Additionally, people with disabilities are more likely to have a secondary condition. Most importantly, we use preventive services at a lower rate than nondisabled people.
Health and Wellness for Individuals with Disabilities
Even though it is more important for people with disabilities to go for a routine checkup as a preventative measure, it is not simple for us to do so. In fact, disabled people are more likely to experience barriers to healthcare, including inaccessible medical offices and inaccessible exam equipment. Disabled people also experience discrimination from healthcare providers and a lack of accommodations.
Mammograms and pap tests are critically important for all women. One report found that fewer women with disabilities report receiving these important tests than women without disabilities. The most commonly cited reason women with disabilities did not receive these tests? They were unable to get into the required position or get onto the examination table.
Disability Discrimination from Healthcare Providers
Studies show that healthcare providers often hold bias against women with disabilities. For example, when a woman with a disability seeks medical care, the provider may only focus on her disability, even if that is not the reason she is seeking care. Medical providers also often fail to provide reasonable accommodations for women with disabilities. These accommodations may include sign language interpreters for Deaf women, appointments that align with public transportation for disabled women who cannot drive, or information in large print for women with visual disabilities.
For these reasons, it is less important for us to emphasize what women with disabilities should do to access to healthcare. It is more important to emphasize what the healthcare system should do! After all, it is the healthcare system that is making it difficult for women with disabilities to receive care.
Inclusive Solutions for Our Healthcare System
- Medical schools should provide specific training on treating women with disabilities;
- Medical providers should engage with the Disability Community to provide an access review of their offices and exam equipment, and remedy any barriers that are identified;
- Providers must ensure that follow-up information is provided in accessible formats;
- Providers should work collaboratively with other disability service agencies to provide holistic care, such as working with medical transportation and social services agencies.
- Offices that are accessible should advertise this on their websites and perform outreach specifically to disability organizations so that women with disabilities can learn about the accessible medical care options in their community.
About Stephanie Woodward: Stephanie is a brand ambassador advisor for Quantum Rehab® and works as a disability rights activist. She has received many awards for helping communities become more accessible, as well as for her actions in fighting for the rights of disabled individuals as it relates to Medicaid and other support services. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.