Janet Shaw: A final frontier: Access to health offices
To the editor:
There have been many positive efforts made in Massachusetts to increase access for persons with disabilities. Physical access to restaurants, movies and stores has steadily increased over the years for those previously shut out.
Oddly enough, some of the last places with limited or no access are those we rely upon for our health and well-being. As a recent study has shown, many doctor’s offices and other medical providers are still inaccessible.
These days, if you can’t get on an exam table, you may not be able to stay healthy. Many women and men with mobility impairments still can’t get gynecological or prostate exams; mammograms, colonoscopies, and other vital procedures are often out of bounds as well.
Persons with physical disabilities aren’t the only ones at risk. Deaf people frequently face discrimination in many practices and hospitals due to a lack of communication access.
Many providers still don’t provide American Sign Language interpreters, apparently expecting help from family members. When that’s not possible, good health care is at risk: This is especially critical in emergency rooms after hours and on weekends.
All this isn’t just unfair. It means that many persons with disabilities have to take a lot more chances with their health than everybody else. We all need to let our elected officials know that this is unacceptable and that health care in Massachusetts must be accessible to all. And if we find that anyone is denied access to care because of a disabling condition, we should call the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Janet Shaw represents the Stavros Center for Independent Living.