Navigating the Healthcare System with Disabilities

Posted January 14th, 2013 by

Are medical facilities prepared to meet the needs of disabled individuals?  It would seem reasonable to think so, but according to PatientsLikeMe members, that’s not always the case.

A potential issue for a disabled patient in a wheelchair:  transferring into the dentist's chair.

For example, consider the case of a female patient using a powered wheelchair who doesn’t have the upper body strength to transfer herself out of the chair.  How does she transfer from the wheelchair to an exam table, dentist chair, mammogram booth or even a weight scale in the doctor’s office?  Assistance is required, yet according to our members, some medical facilities and doctor’s offices claim they cannot provide assistance due to liability issues (e.g., the risk of being sued by the patient or the risk of a worker’s comp claim due to a staff injury).  So what’s the patient to do?

In a discussion in our Multiple Sclerosis Forum, patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) posited that the only immediate solutions appeared to be asking the provider to meet the patient at a nearby hospital (which not all providers will agree to do), changing providers (which is not always easy given insurance networks and geographic location), or switching to home healthcare (which can mean not getting to see your provider in person).  None are ideal.  In comparison, other patients report that their medical facilities, including Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospitals, offer assistive equipment such as mounted ceiling lifts, slings and HoverMatts to facilitate safe wheelchair transfers.

Should all medical facilities be required to have these types of accommodations? Is it discrimination if they don’t? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.


  1. We must be prepared to understand and care for every person, including their physical, emotional and other needs. It’s about human values — dignity, respect, kindness, compassion, and many others.

    We’re working to enhance values and healing in healthcare, and created the International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare.

    The mission of the Charter is to restore the human dimensions of care – the universal core values that should be present in every healthcare interaction – to healthcare around the world. These fundamental values include the capacity for compassion, respect for persons, commitment to integrity and ethical practice, commitment to excellence, and justice in healthcare.

    Join us in our mission!

  2. I have MS but, fortunately I can usually manage to transfer with some help. I do agree that drs.
    Offices should be prepared for people with disabilities who cannot transfer and need more help.
    My main problem is not being able to find a bathroom that I can get in and out of with my electric
    scooter or wheelchair. I have found in the larger institutions it isn’t any better.
    This one very large and well known medical center that I go to only has one handicapped
    Bathroom which is located at one end of a very large floor. If you have MS there is a good chance
    That ,being incontinent, you aren’t going to make it!
    I wonder if there is a physically handicapped individual who gives input on the designs of these

  3. yes being handicap find the use of public restrooms extremely difficult. Toilet being very low, need it higher for people with troublesome knees, high rise, bar in back of toilet seat difficult to reach when having arthritis in both shoulders, not all horizontal bars convenient, need one vertical bar to grasp. Doubt that business restrooms will ever take care of that, too expensive to re-model restrooms.

  4. Assistive devices & /or adaptive exam tables or chairs is common sense, legal sense, safety sense, non discriminating sense, time thus, money sense for the patient,the employee or caretaker & the employer. I say this not just, as a patient but as a nurse who worked 38 years struggling to get patients transferred .institutions could cut back advertising to get the appropriate equipment which says more than commercials.

  5. Ya I completely agree with your thoughts. People who are disabled face several difficulties in their daily activities. Reliable healthcare services help disabled people to do their work easily. I found some equipment and accessories which can help disabled people on this website.

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