October 21, 2019

Annual ADA Event: Advancing Disability-Friendly Health Care

Man in wheelchair talking to mayor of Colorado Springs.by Amber Carlton

 

What if you visited your doctor and weren’t able to navigate through the hallway, get onto the exam table, or see over the receptionist’s counter? If you’ve never had an experience like this, it might be hard to imagine. But these are the kinds of barriers that people with disabilities face every day when trying to access health care. So for The Independence Center’s annual ADA Celebration Luncheon this year, the focus was on “Advancing Disability-Friendly Health Care.”

Each year, the luncheon celebrates the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which took place on July 26, 1990. A crucial turning point in the disability rights movement, this landmark legislation established a legal framework to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment, to ensure that buildings and paths of travel are accessible, and to provide reasonable accommodations.

At this year’s event, which was held July 26 at the Hotel Eleganté Resort and Conference Center with over 270 people in attendance, The IC examined the need for more accessible medical services for people with disabilities here in Colorado and around the country. Katie Pelton, anchor at local news station KKTV, emceed the event and a variety of speakers told their personal stories about their experiences with accessibility in medical care.

The keynote speaker was June Isaacson Kailes, MSW, LCSW, a highly respected disability rights advocate and consultant. Recognized worldwide as one of the original leaders in the Independent Living movement, she took a humorous look at the barriers people with disabilities face when trying to access medical care. Her presentations featured amusing cartoons depicting crowded waiting rooms without accessible spaces, difficulties getting through hallways, accessible exam rooms used as storage, and the challenges of wheelchair users being examined in their wheelchairs.

Betty Jo Sjoberg, a consumer of The IC, recounted why she nominated her medical provider, Matthews-Vu Medical Group, during The IC’s Accessible Medical Equipment Giveaway last year. The practice received a Hoyer lift and an accessible exam table last year from the IC Fund for Persons with Disabilities.

“The adaptive medical equipment makes it so much better for us, safer and also more comfortable,” Betty Jo said. “When you have a disability and you already feel different, and then you go into a medical practice and they’re scurrying to find a way to accommodate you, you start to feel very self-conscious. To have things in place, I cannot express to you what a difference that makes. We feel, I think, more apt to talk and share our concerns with our medical professionals.”

During the event, Patricia Yeager, CEO of The IC, announced that another $75,000 will be invested this year to make dental care disability-friendly. “What we’re planning, is to work with dental health care providers to expand accessible dental services to people with disabilities here in Colorado through another medical equipment giveaway,” she said.

The entire event can be viewed on The IC’s Youtube channel at https://youtu.be/KWP_vKNDQgs. Make sure to subscribe while you’re there! And mark your calendars for next year’s ADA Celebration, which will be held on Friday, July 21, 2020.