World Health Organization (WHO) defines disability as an umbrella term that covers impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. Impairment is an abnormality in body function or structure.
Access to primary health care is more difficult for people with disabilities than for people without disabilities. This is mainly due to low education level, social deprivation and unawareness of one’s own rights, as well as physical and informational barriers to health care access. The possible illnesses of persons with disabilities (for example, mental health issues) are easily left unnoticed.
Lack of education and health services make persons with disabilities more vulnerable to diseases such as HIV-AIDS. Health promotion and awareness campaigns often fail to reach persons with disabilities and the campaigns are conducted in a manner that ignores possible restrictions in hearing, seeing and understanding.
The socioeconomic status of persons with disabilities is lower than that of persons without disabilities. Persons with disabilities experience more poverty and unemployment than the rest of the population and are more likely to be poorly educated. Places that offer help are often inaccessible, and an assistant cannot be provided for the person with a disability. All these factors contribute to a person’s well-being.
Making health care services accessible for people with disabilities could include:
- improving physical accessibility to health care services
- educating health care providers on disability and challenging prevailing attitudes
- teaching sign language to health care providers and providing health education in sign language
- producing information and educational material in plain language, Braille and sign language
- including people with disabilities in decision-making to make their views known when organizing services
- educating persons with disabilities on their rights