‘This Is Really Life or Death.’ For People With Disabilities, Coronavirus Is Making It Harder Than Ever to Receive Care


…Roughly one in four adults in the U.S. has a disability, and an estimated 60% of Americans have at least one chronic health condition that could make the symptoms of COVID-19 more severe or deadly. Even in normal times, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses confront biases in medical care, face waiting lists to get support in their own homes instead of at nursing homes, and struggle to access government benefits. But amid a global pandemic, those challenges are heightened—and so far, lawmakers have mostly ignored their calls for help.

“You’re really increasing the risks to disabled people’s health when they don’t have access to these basic services,” says Rebecca Cokley, who leads the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress. “This is really life or death for our community.”

…Most medical schools do not teach future doctors about disability, says Dr. Lisa Iezzoni, a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School. And most clinical trials exclude people with disabilities, so many doctors only interact with disabled people when they are already sick and seeking care.

Iezzoni, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, recently conducted a national survey of doctors’ attitudes toward people with disabilities. “The vast majority of doctors view quality of life for people with disabilities as less than that for people without disability,” she says. “That’s an implicit bias, or maybe it’s an explicit bias, that is inevitably going to affect how they approach a person with a disability.” Iezzoni’s own research and other studies have shown that disabled people face disparities in their rates of diagnosis, across various health outcomes and in overall access to care.

Read more at Time.com…

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