Access to Healthcare for Women and Girls with Disabilities

When women with disabilities are able to access routine healthcare, they have fewer hospitalization’s and fewer emergency room visits, reducing overall costs for both public and private payers.  However, women with disabilities face multiple barriers when trying to access medical care, including:

  • Equipment such as adjustable exam tables, scales and mammography machines may not be available
  • Medical practitioners may not have experience and or comfort working with people with disabilities
  • People with disabilities may require extra time of the practitioners who are already pressed to see many patients in a short amount of time
  • Accessible communications (e.g.: sign language interpreters, large print, Braille, audio), print and electronic materials may not be available for women with disabilities

Beginning in 2010, ACHIEVA’s Disability healthcare Initiative continued the nationally recognized work of the FISA Foundation on access for women and girls with disabilities.  After holding two state-wide forums that brought together women and girls, their families, medical professionals, hospitals, government agencies, educators, insurance companies, foundations, policy makers and advocates, we developed viable solutions to increase access to healthcare for women and girls with disabilities in Pennsylvania.

In 2012, ACHIEVA wrote Access to Healthcare for Women and Girls with Disabilities:  A Report to Pennsylvania’s Legislators.  This report developed seven recommendations.  Some of them have become part of the patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and one, instituting a part-time loan forgiveness program, using existing funding, for medical and dental professionals, has been approved in Pennsylvania.  The seven recommendations are:

  1. Enact legislation to educate and monitor and enforce accessibility requirements through the Americans with Disabilities act (ADA) for all medical providers.
  2. Integrate ADA requirements into the Department of Health licensing requirements for health care professionals and facilities.
  3. Enact legislation that requires private health insurers to reimburse providers for the cost of interpreters, captioners, Braille and other ADA required accommodations.
  4. Ensure that Pennsylvania’s women with disabilities are able to receive a mammogram and other preventative diagnostic tests and imaging.
  5. Ensure that Pennsylvania’s Medicaid (Medical Assistance) providers are compensated for the additional time and/or staff may need to adequately meet the needs of their patients with disabilities.
  6. Institute a more flexible (part time) medical and dental education loan repayment program, using existing funds, to incentivize health care professionals to serve people with disabilities and other Medicaid recipients, especially in Pennsylvania’s underserved areas.
  7. Expand the number of Medical Homes in Pennsylvania for adults with disabilities.

Access to Healthcare for Women and Girls with Disabilities – A Report to Pennsylvania’s Legislators

In 2013, DHI collaborated with a nationally known photographer to produce beautiful photographs of women with disabilities.  The result was a booklet, The Goddess Project, which was also shared with Pennsylvania’s legislators and helped to highlight the need for access to health care for Pennsylvania’s women and girls with disabilities. 

Please click here to view the Goddess booklet.