Access to Healthcare for People with Disabilities

I found an article on NPR’s website that talks about access to healthcare (or the lack thereof) for people with disabilities. It was quite surprising that emergency room workers didn’t want to treat this patient who complained of back pain because he was in a wheelchair.

A lot of myths say that people with disabilities are too difficult to treat because it will take too long to see the patient or their medical history is too complicated. However, I believe that’s not the case. For those of us with complex injuries, like spinal cord injuries, we know our bodies the best. We can tell the doctors and nurses how to help us transfer to and from the wheelchairs.

In the NPR story, the patient waited hours before being treated. If it were me, I would have to notify management that patients with less-severe problems were being seen ahead of me. It’s about being an advocate for yourself. Make sure you let people know your concerns, but do it in a respectful manner.

This healthcare dilemma is becoming recognized by medical schools around the country. Many programs are offering courses to ensure equal treatment in medical settings. At MUSC, members of the disability community speak to occupational and physical therapists. Through these opportunities, we are sharing our knowledge of living with disabilities and helping them become better providers.

To read the NPR story, go to


About Tuesday Talk With Alex

Born in Charleston, SC, I was injured in a motor vehicle accident when I was nine months old. I acquired a C5-C6 spinal cord injury. I'm now 30 years old and I do not let my disability deter me from acheiving my goals and enjoying life. I will be sharing my experience of living with a spinal cord injury.
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3 Responses to Access to Healthcare for People with Disabilities

  1. Very, very interesting – and enlightening!


  2. Judith Steele says:

    Hey Alex!!
    Wow! is all I can say. I never thought about discrimination against people who use wheelchairs. My experience with Kim in ERs, hospitals and doctor’s offices was so different. He was typically treated well and with great courtesy. I know first hand that the treatment for people with many other disorders, whether the more severe forms of autism, severe developmental disabilities, or serious psychiatric problems, is very different and much like the writer of the article. There is a dearth of practitioners who can diagnose and treat patients who don’t talk, who don’t understand, who may react strongly to the environment or to pain.


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