People with disabilities are less likely to receive routine preventative health care than persons who do not have disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that health care providers provide accessible services to patients who disclose disabilities. Therefore health care professionals would benefit from training in serving individuals with disabilities throughout all health care facility public areas:


  • Cafeteria
  • Emergency rooms
  • Gift shop
  • Inpatient facilities requiring overnight stay     
  • Long term care/rehabilitation facilities
  • Outpatient facilities with no overnight stay 
  • Pharmacies
  • Physician/dental practices
  • Surgical units

A patient with a disability cannot be denied service because it might take longer to examine them. Some examinations are simply lengthier than others. All patients, those with or without disabilities, must be provided with thorough medical examinations regardless of how much insurance reimbursement the health care provider will receive.

A patient with a disability should not wait longer than a patient who does not have a disability. A prudent scheduler routinely asks every patient requesting an appointment if they will require assistance. The health care provider can then reserve a room with an accessible examination table whenever a patient discloses a mobility disability.

Accessibility requests should be documented in every patient’s chart so health care providers are prepared to accommodate and assist all patients as required during every visit.  It is also imperative that health care personnel receive training to safely transfer patients to and from mobility aids to medical equipment.

When accessible medical equipment is acquired, staff should immediately learn how to operate the equipment. Adjustable examination tables can be adjusted to the same level as a wheelchair: 17" - 19" above the floor.

Examinations are more thorough when patients are lying on an examination table. Patients should not be examined while seated in their wheelchairs unless the examination does not require that a person lie down (e.g.: only examining ears for a suspected ear infection). When examinations are provided to patients while seated in their wheelchairs they do not receive equal medical services as required by the ADA.

All patients, regardless of disability status, are entitled to go to medical appointments alone. Health care providers cannot require patients who have disabilities to bring companions or their

personal care attendants to assist during medical examinations.  However if the patient chooses to bring a friend, family member or assistant, before beginning an examination, the health care

professional should ask the patient whether their companion can remain in the room while discussing a diagnosis, test results or treatment.

Though health care providers might be required to provide assistance to assure patients who have disabilities receive equal medical services, health care personnel should talk directly to patients rather than companions. Providers should ask patients whether they require assistance, and if so, specifically how they may assist.  Examples include, but are not limited to, assisting the patient with dressing and undressing, and getting on and off, and maintaining positioning on, an examination table.

Tenants and landlords are equally responsible for complying with the ADA. When leasing health care provider space, the lease should specify who is responsible for some or all of the accessibility requirements. The tenant is frequently responsible for the space it uses, such as the examination and waiting rooms. The landlord is usually responsible for assuring that common space used by more than one tenant, such as restrooms, is accessible to people who have disabilities.

Helpful links are specified below:

People with Disabilities Often Miss Prevention, Wellness Care

Access to Medical Care for Individuals with Mobility Disabilities

Over the past four decades, Disability Educator and Sign Language Instructor Cindy Powell has advised businesses, employers, government agencies and nonprofits about best practices with people with disabilities.


Cindy provides customized training on the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), tax incentives and other helpful topics, such as disability etiquette and service animals. Ms. Powell also provides customized sign language training.


Cindy has served on local, state and national disability organization Boards of Directors. Ms. Powell was recipient of International Association of Workforce Professionals' 2006 Services to Specialized Populations award. Cindy’s disability articles appear in print and online.

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