LEONARDO, NJ : "Medical access delayed is medical access denied," said Carolyn Schwebel, Executive Director of the Equalizers, advocates for people with disabilities. "July 26th was the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ," she added, "but very few physicians' offices and hospitals are wheelchair-accessible as required by this law."
During the long and arduous diagnosis and treatment regimen commonly required for those with breast cancer, Schwebel herself has had to endure many incidents of lack of accessibility at a local hospital. For a minor operation, the surgeon had to call a security guard to physically lift her up onto a high table that she had been assured would be accessible. "That experience made a scary situation even scarier. I was anxious, angry, and embarrassed at being undressed." For daily radiation treatments, she had to rely on a very cooperative, strong staff member to do the lifting. Many patients, especially older ones, have said that they are afraid that if they ask for their safe access rights they will lose their doctors.
Medical facilities should be the most proactive in providing access for people with disabilities, including older patients and "wounded warriors." Still, 21 years after the required implementation of the ADA, patient tables, patient beds, toilets, diagnostic and radiation treatment machines are usually much too high; toilet seats and exam tables should be 17 to 19 inches from the floor for transfer from a wheelchair. Traditional exam tables are over a foot higher! While some medical providers have tried by buying newer tables, they are unaware that at 26 inches high, these tables are still dangerous and not accessible. The proper 17 to 19 inch height tables are now available.
Much guidance for medical providers is available at the Department of Justice's Web site, ADA.gov; in particular see "Access To Medical Care For Individuals With Mobility Disabilities" http://www.ada.gov/medcare_mobility_ta/medcare_ta.pdf