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What Businesses Can Learn from this Arizona Medical Disability Discrimination ADA Lawsuit

May 18, 2022
Author: AO Editor

If you are not born blind, losing sight is incredibly difficult.

Sight is so precious, valuable, and intrinsically embedded into everything we do as a society, in culture, and business.

Think social media. Movies and television. Driving. Sports. Education. Facetime.

And yet sight is simultaneously, incredibly, under appreciated.

Until it is gone. And sometimes it goes in an instant.

With a snap of the fingers, out goes the light and in comes the dark.

Even more aphotic is what happens next-death and disease.

People with disabilities have the highest rates of all-cause mortality and rates of degenerative disease.

Not in third-world countries. Not in developing countries. Here, in the United States…

More than any other demographic or minority in the US, people with disabilities suffer from higher rates of degenerative disease and die sooner.

Is fast food a problem? Sure it is.

Does lack of exercise and sedentary habits contribute? 100%

But isn’t that most of America? Advertisements teach everyone what America needs, wants, and buys.

This isn’t about shaming anyone for what they look like, the genetic hand they were dealt, or an excuse. These are simply facts. You can see the World Health Organization’s findings on Disability and Health here, a recent study on Mortality Risk Associated with Disability here and this study finding people with disabilities nearly 2x as likely to die than those without a disability.

Imagine you noticed a change in your vision. Driving at night is exceedingly difficult. You squint when you read. You find your eyes more and more tired at the end of each workday.

Because you know how precious, how valuable, and how intrinsically embedded sight is for everything we do, you decided to get checked out and made an appointment at the Optometrist’s or Ophthalmologist’s office.

You think about your sight and how much you use it societally… People watching, hanging out with friends, playing games, and watching movies.

You think about how much you rely on it at work, during meetings, evaluating spreadsheets, and your wall calendar.

And when you finally get to your appointment, what would you do if the doctor said no…? The nurses said no… We’re not treating you.

Not because of insurance… Not because they’re too busy. But because you have a disability.

What do you do? What do you say? What happens when you’re different and that difference is what’s behind you being excluded from medical care?

This is not something that was going on 10, 20, or 30 years ago. This is happening now. At the time of this publication in 2022, there is a class action lawsuit against a network of eye doctors, vision centers, and clinics for refusing treatment to individuals who have mobility disabilities and or use wheelchairs.
You can read about that lawsuit here

I’m not surprised. For multiple reasons and certainly some you would likely never expect.

For example, I understand where these doctors are coming from and why they may have taken such discriminatory actions against an under-served protected community.

Because when I became a person with a severe physical disability… I did something terribly similar to myself.

The problem is rooted in lack of awareness, empathy, education, and the corrective actions to make it right.

Essentially disability readiness.

These medical “professionals” did not have any of this. Nor did they take a step back to consider how or why it was wrong.

And now they are paying the price.

And, when I consider how many people who have suffered sight loss because they were denied medical treatment, I hope the price is a stiff one.

Recently I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease by my primary care physician, who swiftly referred me to a renal specialist.

I didn’t schedule the appointment right away.

As an adult,  a car accident caused me to suffer a traumatic brain injury, broken back, jaw, blew off portions of my face and skull, with bone sticking out of the skin on my face, leaving me with an infection that took my eye, and another infection on my brain that was working hard to kill me.

2 months later, opening my eyes with my jaw wired shut in the traumatic brain injury ward… Waking up in a world of complete darkness… I had no clue what was in front of me. Literally.

But overnight I saw, as a totally blind man,  how much privilege I had… And never realized.

How people treat those who used to be like me… Better.

And how people treat me and those like me… Different.

A lot different. Different as in the worst, unimaginable, humiliating way possible…

No wonder the highest rates of degenerative disease and all-cause mortality are in the disability community.

I know this truth. I’ve experienced it daily. It’s these memories that haunt me, prevent me, from scheduling that appointment with the renal specialist.

Yesterday I did schedule the appointment. Because I have a daughter… And she needs her dad.

The appointment specialist told me they’d be mailing out a new patient package that I’d need to fill out before my appointment.

Upon my asking for an electronic version, they told me, “We don’t have one.”

I explained that I’m blind, I need one because I live alone, and having an electronic version may be more convenient for patients with and without disabilities. I finished by asking,

“Would you like to have a digital version to send out to new patients? I will make you one.”

“I’ll make a note of this and let the doctors know.”

I hope I’m not denied services when I show up and ask for assistance filling out the new patient packet.

How to Improve Your Disability Readiness

Disability readiness starts with awareness. Here’s how to build it so you can make strategic informed improvements.

Let’s use the medical example from above. Feel free to apply this thinking to your own business.

What does our new patient on-boarding experience and workflow look like?

Do they need to fill out forms? Is that digitally or analog?

How do we communicate with our patients? Do we use an online portal, snail mail, or both?

Do patients check-in for appointments with a receptionist or a kiosk?

How do we send appointment reminders? Email, text message, phone call, or a combination?

How have you ensured these processes are accessible to people with sensory impairments like blindness, mobility impairments like quadriplegics, and cognitive impairments like autism?

For your on-location accessibility, consider the normal patient experience.

How would you measure one’s weight and blood pressure for those with different abilities?

How would you assist those with sensory or mobility disabilities access treatment tables, stations, or beds?

How would you transport someone with a sensory, mobility, or cognitive disability from room to room?

Contact us now and let’s strategize on how to maximize your business’s disability readiness

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