Addressing a Community Need, Medical Accessibility. By Larry Wanger, S.I.L.C. Executive Director

Addressing a Community Need: Medical Accessibility

Addressing a Community Need, Medical Accessibility. By Larry Wanger, S.I.L.C. Executive Director. LivAbility Magazine, Arizona's leading magazine for people with disabilities.

Medical Accessibility

Survey Paints Picture of Healthcare System Failing people who have Disabilities in Arizona

The results of a recent survey of people who have disabilities living in Arizona and their experiences with medical providers reveals a healthcare system that often fails to provide accessibility and basic medical care.

60 percent of respondents described their level of accessibility at medical providers as challenging, difficult or unpleasant.

56 percent said they had chosen not to see a medical provider for general healthcare, preventative tests and exams or treatment for an urgent medical issue due to concerns related to accessibility.

38 percent of respondents with a physical disability said a medical provider has told them they must have a friend or relative come with them to an appointment to provide assistance.

23 percent of respondents who use a wheelchair or other mobility device, 19 percent of hearing impaired respondents and 61 percent who are blind or have low-vision said they have been injured or a condition has worsened because a medical office, exam, procedure, equipment and or treatment/discharge instructions were not accessible.


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51 percent of respondents said healthcare providers skipped exams, treatments or testing because they could not access medical equipment.

When most people face a significant health-related issue, their thoughts turn to finding the most qualified and skilled doctor or specialist to provide care. However, for many people who have disabilities in Arizona, the most immediate concern is insuring they can get in the door of the medical office and access equipment in the exam room.

Tempe resident Bill Stokes says that finding accessible healthcare providers is his priority when he is referred for a specific test or exam. Stokes, who uses a wheelchair, said, “I spend a significant amount of time calling around to find a medical office with an accessible exam table when I need a test or procedure done instead of researching the credentials and qualifications of the provider.”

Unfortunately, many people who require an accessible exam table or other accommodation may not have the persistence shown by Stokes, as 56 percent of survey respondents indicated they have chosen not to see a medical provider for an exam, general healthcare, or treatment of a serious medical issue due to concerns related to accessibility.

The survey results are alarming. While the results of this survey are not a surprise, they are very troubling and are yet another indicator of a healthcare system that is failing to meet the needs of thousands of Arizonans who have disabilities.
Cindy Rogers of Mesa says that while she continues to experience significant challenges, she has noted some improvement on the behalf of healthcare providers. “A few medical providers have begun to offer intake forms and other documents online and I am able to fill them out before my appointment.” Rogers, who has a visual impairment, said she does have concerns about the confidentiality of her information, as she is often forced to complete intake forms with the assistance of office staff in the reception area with no privacy.

Unfortunately, 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are still issues that make accessing medical facilities difficult.

Thirteen percent of those who identified as having a physical disability indicated they encountered barriers that prevented them from entering a medical office. Nearly 50 percent of respondents with a physical disability said they have difficulties with narrow entrances or heavy doors while 43 percent said exam rooms are too small to navigate when using a wheelchair or mobility device.

The survey was conducted by the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council and received approximately 230 responses from people who have a variety of disabilities. While the survey may not have received the desired number of responses, the results are very similar to those found elsewhere in the country and clearly indicate that the state’s healthcare system is not meeting the needs of the 1 in 4 Arizonans who live with a disability.

Share your experiences by completing the Access to Medical Providers survey on the SILC website at azsilc.org.


Photo: Larry Wanger

Larry Wanger
SILC Executive Director

Larry Wanger has been the Executive Director of the Arizona Statewide Independent living Council since October 2013 and has worked in the Independent Living field for over 18 years. He served as the manager of Employment Services at Ability360 from 2004 to 2013. Outside of work Larry enjoys running, travel and reading.