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Ethan Ellis

In violation of the law, twenty-two percent medical specialists will not serve people with disabilities, according to a survey reported in “The Annals of Internal Medicine” http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1666710.

A variety of reasons were given, including using equipment critical to the practices that would not accommodate us and having offices in inaccessible buildings. Twenty-three years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act required that all medical services be accessible to us.

These violations pose a particular danger for people with disabilities because practitioners in any specialty are rarer than GPs. Three other factors add to that danger: Specialists are less likely to have experience with disabilities unrelated to their specialty; their services are more often needed to treat serious, life-threatening diseases; and they are less likely to take Medicaid or Medicare.

Taken together, these factors pose a significant threat to the health and life of those of us with disabilities. That threat is unacceptable and requires that we take action to make these doctors obey the law. Fortunately there are several things we can do.

1) Take a survey to identify the inaccessible specialists in your area, make them aware of their obligations under the law and ask them to comply with them voluntarily;

  1. Meet with state and county medical associations to acquaint them with the law and ask for their support;
  2. Conduct a public relations campaign to gain more support for change;
  3. Find friendly state legislators to introduce a bill to make providing accessible services a condition for granting and renewing licenses to practice–a state government function;
  4. Build spport for that legislation;
  5. Picket those docs who refuse to obey the law and give out information to their patients about the life-threatening consequences of their refusal to do so;
  6. Build your campaign from the bottom up and the top down until it covers the entire state;
  • Share what works and what doesn’t with each other – and me.

Remember, the law is on your side and, sooner or later, the life you save may be your own.

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