A group of U.S. senators asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a comprehensive study into the persisting barriers that Americans with disabilities of all backgrounds experience in accessing healthcare, including access to facilities, medical treatment, services and equipment.
“We write to request that the GAO conduct a study on barriers people with disabilities experience in accessing healthcare — including reproductive healthcare — in the United States,” according to the senators. “Even though discrimination based on disability is prohibited by law, people with disabilities continue to face issues with accessibility when it comes to getting the healthcare they need, when they need it. The lack of accessible healthcare contributes to and exacerbates health disparities experienced by people with disabilities.”
From inaccessible facilities and medical equipment to a lack of communication through interpreters, transcriptions or accessible medical information, members of the disability community continue to be denied their rights despite having strong protections to access and receive equitable care under the law. The senators also note that the current data and studies regarding health disparities among the disability community contain significant gender and racial gaps that fail to fully capture the severity of this issue for all Americans living with a disability.
The senators asked the GAO to assess:
- What is known about the barriers to accessible, federally funded healthcare facilities, providers and services for people with disabilities?
- To what extent do federal agencies collect data regarding the accessibility to healthcare for people with disabilities, including demographic information, such as age, race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation?
- What federal oversight efforts and technical assistance are conducted to support the application of federal laws related to the accessibility of healthcare facilities, providers and services for people with disabilities?
- What is known about the prevalence of individuals with disabilities in the healthcare and allied health workforce, and how has it changed over time?
- What is known about the extent to which healthcare providers are trained to have knowledge of the health needs of people with disabilities, their legal obligations under the Federal nondiscrimination mandates, as well as to engage with, and provide healthcare and services to, people with disabilities in a culturally appropriate manner?
- What is known about the financial barriers that people with disabilities may experience and how such barriers impact their access to healthcare services?