Fight for better healthcare access continues in the disability community

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 10:31 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - March is recognized as National Disability Awareness Month and is observed by taking extra steps to raises awareness about the rights of people with disabilities.

The Chanda Center for Health is one Colorado organization that works year-round to advocate for the rights that people with long-term disabilities have when receiving healthcare, which, according to founder Chanda Hinton, has been an ongoing issue for years.

“I feel as if individuals with disabilities have continued to be left out of what we all really look at as being equitable, diverse, and inclusive,” explained Hinton on receiving medical care. “This has been a conversation within our community for decades and we’re still having the same conversations and the same mentality from the healthcare communities.”

There are several barriers people with disabilities face when attempting to get access to healthcare. This includes physical obstacles like issues with entering into a healthcare facility, lack of proper medical equipment, lack of training on how to transport people with disabilities, and no enforcement for physicians to follow the law by being disability and culturally competent.

“When you imagine all of those barriers, all of the lack of education, all of the providers not showing up and making a change, you can see why the disparities continue and it’s very disheartening,” said Hinton adding she’s found providers to have no interest in learning from curriculum provided that could help educate them on caring for a person with a disability.

“It’s quite concerning because when you think about health disparities for people with disabilities it’s scary, because there are people that are literally dying because we don’t have the healthcare community really stepping up and taking it upon themselves to be disability cultural and competent,” explained Hinton. “Oftentimes when we have disabilities, physicians, because they are not educated, they don’t want to serve us. So, then we’re going up against we want to educate you, but you won’t get educated, so there is kind of that weird vicious cycle.”

Hinton told 11 News her own experience attempting to receive healthcare as a quadriplegic.

At times, her problems start at the entrance to the healthcare facility when the door is not automatic.

“Once I get to the front desk, it may be so high that nobody even recognizes I’m there for up to 10-15 minutes,” explained Hinton, “but once you get into the treatment room, a lot of the physicians don’t know how to transfer you from your wheelchair to a treatment table. The treatment table might not even by hydraulic or accessible to get you on the treatment table.”

Hinton adds once the exam starts, focus on her disability may prevent her from receiving basic healthcare. “They are so worried about our actual condition of living with a spinal cord injury that they forget about all the general human things that we need to be taken care of. Like, how’s our heart? How’s our blood pressure?” questioned Hinton.

She explains while she’s learned to navigate barriers in her life as a person with a disability, she does not believe navigating those barriers should be extended to getting access to healthcare.

“We have to shift the conversation,” said Hinton adding change must be made through legislation and bigger discussion items calling on anyone with a passion for disability to educate themselves on the community and work toward a difference.