For years, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have struggled to access effective healthcare. Generations of healthcare providers have not received the proper training on how to treat individuals with disabilities.
According to Statistics Canada, one in five (22%) of the Canadian population aged 15 and over – about 6.2 million individuals – are living with some form of disability that affects their level of freedom, independence, or quality of life.
People with disabilities have the same right as everyone else to receive community-based healthcare with the same ease of access and for the same problems. In this article, we discuss some of the most common healthcare barriers for people with disabilities and how healthcare providers can improve accessibility in their medical facilities.
Common Barriers to Disability Healthcare
In surveys and focus groups, people with disabilities expressed frustration over the multiple barriers that prevent them from getting the healthcare that they need. These barriers include:
Communication barriers: Those with speech disabilities have a hard time communicating with healthcare providers and feel that their concerns are not taken seriously.
Attitudinal barriers:People with disabilities report that their providers speak to them disrespectfully or ignore their need for preventative care, focusing on their disability as the main reason for their visit.
Physical barriers: Individuals with disabilities report a lack of architectural accessibility and a lack of medical equipment in healthcare facilities and offices (e.g., wheelchair ramps and elevators, and height-adjustable exam tables).
Financial barriers: People with disabilities have a harder time finding secure employment because of their disability, or they may receive public benefits or coverage, which limits their financial capacity to cover medical expenses.
Transportation barriers: Lack of accessible transportation for people who cannot drive because of cognitive or mobility impairments. Public transportation may also be unavailable or at inconvenient locations.
Health Disparities in People with Disabilities
Canadians living with long-term conditions and disabilities experience more serious health disparities than those without disabilities. These include:
1. Poor health rates
2. Higher rates of depression and anxiety
3. Shorter life expectancy than the general population
4. Less likely to receive preventative care
5. Higher rates of undiagnosed hearing and vision impairments
6. Higher rates of obesity
7. Higher rates of poor dental health
8. Higher rates of diabetes, asthma, and heart disease
Removing Barries and Improving Accessibility
Understanding these barriers is the first step toward removing them. There are many things that healthcare providers can do to make their medical facilities more accessible for patients with disabilities. These include:
– Providing accessible office equipment, such as height-adjustable exam tables, scales, and X-ray machines.
– Ensuring that office building complies with modern accessibility guidelines, such as having doorways wide enough for wheelchair access, appropriate ramps and elevators, and accessible restrooms.
– Providing alternative communication when requested, such as sign language or written communication.
– Recognizing that some patients with disabilities will bring their service animals into clinic waiting rooms, exam rooms, and other areas in your office.
– Providing ongoing training to medical staff on how to interact appropriately with patients who have disabilities. Include topics on respectful communication, disability culture, reproductive healthcare, and the importance of preventative care.
– Connecting with local and national disability organizations so staff can learn more about rare conditions and ask people with disabilities about their preferences for communication and access.
– Recognizing that some patients with disabilities may have trouble paying for their healthcare, even if they have insurance. Help patients to understand all of their prevention and treatment options, including relative costs. This may include comparing different treatment options or allowing for payment plans.
Interested in knowing more ways to improve accessibility in your medical practice?
Supported employment is an evidence-based practice in which direct support professionals (DSPs) help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities find, secure, and maintain competitive work alongside other members of their community. With this support, those individuals with disabilities who are willing and ready to work can quickly find jobs that might otherwise be difficult to attain.
Supported employment practices have been around for more than 30 years. From 1986 to 1995, the number of individuals using supported employment services increased from 10,000 to more than 140,000. Since then, supported employment has only continued to grow in popularity, providing even more employers with talented, eager employees.
There are many benefits of supported employment for adults with disabilities, their employers, and the community-based service providers that help them.
Benefits of Supported Employment for People with Disabilities:
Supported employment programs can provide many benefits to people with disabilities, but perhaps the greatest benefit is that it often leads to a better quality of life. With supported employment, these individuals are able to:
Maintain financial stability
Build meaningful relationships
Learn valuable skills
Make their own choices
Contribute to their community
Contribute to their family household income
Benefits of Supported Employment for Employers:
In surveys carried out in Canada and the United States, employers of people with disabilities have noted some common characteristics among these employees:
Work attendance is high
Employees are dedicated to their work
Productivity and initiative are more than satisfactory
People with disabilities are hardworking and loyal to their jobs
Business benefits of hiring people with disabilities, aside from it being the right thing todo, include:
Increased staff morale and productivity
Increased customer loyalty
Lower turnover rates
Enhanced company reputation
Increased market share
Employers who hire inclusively show that they care about diversity in the workplace and about the people and their communities, and they gain more business. It’s truly a win-win situation.
Benefits of Supported Employment for Service providers:
Some of the main benefits of supported employment for service providers include:
Expanded service offerings
Increased client satisfaction
Networking with other professionals
Making a positive difference in their community
Supported employment is an effective method for helping individuals with IDD improve their quality of life through competitive work opportunities. It helps employers gain loyal employees and enhance their brand reputation. It also empowers community-based service providers to expand their programs and increase client satisfaction.
If you’re looking for a reliable employment support program in Ontario, you’ve come to the right place. Community Living North Perth is proud to offer supported employment services to adults with disabilities over the age of 18. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-291-1350 for more information.
What are Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities?
Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) are disorders that are usually present at birth and that uniquely affect the trajectory of an individual’s physical, intellectual, and/or emotional development. Many of these conditions affect multiple body parts or systems.
Intellectual disabilities can happen before a child turns 18. Many individuals have difficulty learning adaptive behaviours and daily living skills, such as communication, socialization, and personal hygiene. Physical challenges may involve walking, mobility, and speech.
Some children with intellectual disabilities can develop the skills they need to gain independence through professional support programs and targeted learning. Others may require one-on-one help at school or at home. As adults, many move into a group home environment, where they will continue to learn essential skills to enhance their independence and self-sufficiency.
Developmental disabilities encompass a broad group of challenges that can potentially impact learning, behaviour, and language development. Individuals with developmental disabilities may experience chronic cognitive or physical disabilities or both.
Examples of IDDs include Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, and more.
How IDDs affect the body parts/systems
Nervous system: These disorders affect how the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system function, which can affect intelligence and learning. Other issues associated with these conditions include behavioural problems, speech or language difficulties, seizures, and movement problems.
Sensory system: These disorders affect the senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) or how the brain processes or interprets the senses.
Metabolism: These disorders affect how the body uses food and other materials for energy and growth. Eg: how the body breaks down food during digestion is a metabolic process. Problems with these processes can upset the balance of materials available for the body to function properly. Too much of one thing or too little of another can disrupt overall body and brain functions.
Degenerative: Individuals with degenerative disorders may seem typical at birth and may meet developmental milestones for a time, but then they experience sudden disruptions in skills, abilities, and functions because of their condition. Sometimes, the disorder may not show until the child is an adolescent or adult and starts to show symptoms or lose abilities.
How to support a person living with an IDD
Supporting someone with an IDD requires understanding that everyone’s needs are different. For example, a person with autism might have different needs than a person with Down syndrome.
Here are a few ways you can support a person living with an IDD:
1. Address the individual directly
2. Communicate naturally with facial expressions
3. Practice patience
4. Be aware of boundaries
5. Avoid being judgemental
6. Focus on the person instead of the disability
7. Never make assumptions
8. Respect the person’s choices and independence
9. Avoid using offensive language
10. Ask before you help
Community Living North Perth (CLNP) offers a wide range of support services to adults with disabilities to live meaningful lives. As a charitable organization, we champion and advocate for their inclusion and full citizenship in our communities. If you are looking for a support program for your loved one with a disability, you’ve come to the right place. Visit the Contact page to get in touch with us. We look forward to hearing from you!