Demand Equal Treatment for Patients with Disabilities

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Target: American Medical Association President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD

Goal: Ensure that disabled patients receive equal medical treatment by requiring training for care providers

Patients with disabilities are often discriminated against in medical environments. They are often made to wait longer for treatment or may simply be denied access to treatment outright. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that when researchers contacted hospitals across four cities to seek treatment for fictional patients who were obese and who used a wheelchair over a fifth of the facilities responded that accommodating the patient would be impossible.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was put in place in 1990 to eliminate discrimination against individuals with physical or mental disabilities in situations ranging from housing and public transportation to medical treatment. The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice clearly states that this includes providing accessible examination rooms, necessary equipment for assisting patients when they require physical aid in moving to examination tables, and staff who are properly trained to treat patients with disabilities.

A study published in the International Journal of Oral Science found that deans at the majority of U.S. medical schools did not feel that including a curriculum on patients with disabilities was a high priority. Many medical students never receive any focused coursework on treating patients with mental disabilities.

Join those who believe in equal treatment for all and urge the American Medical Association (AMA) to suggest policy changes aimed toward equal treatment for patients with disabilities. Call on the AMA to demand that students in medical fields receive training on how to properly respond to the needs of individuals with physical and mental impairments.


Dear Dr. Hoven,

Individuals with physical and mental disabilities deserve the same access to medical care as do all other individuals. However the current state of medicine often leaves disabled individuals waiting longer for care or else denied access to services outright.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was passed to protect the disabled against discrimination. I write to ask that you encourage policymakers and medical care providers to fully uphold the law as intended. Medical facilities should be properly equipped to accommodate all individuals, and medical staff should be provided with the training required to treat people with disabilities.

Education is crucial to providing the context and understanding for medical care providers to do their jobs: caring for patients, regardless of background. Staff training should go beyond knowledge of appropriate regulations for accessible rooms and knowledge of relevant equipment. It should also inform medical professionals about the implicit discrimination that often goes along with treating patients with disabilities. This training should start early in a person’s medical education. Currently only a minority of medical schools focus on this topic so critical for aspiring physicians and medical professionals.

I join others in affirming that no one should have to accept discrimination from healthcare providers. I urge you to use your influence to ensure that the Americans with Disabilities Act is upheld and that medical educators provide students with information on how to eliminate such discrimination.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Sara Hendren & Brian Glenney via Wikimedia Commons

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