#HealthCareEquality for Tennesseans with Disabilities

  • February 20, 2019

People with disabilities come in all shapes, sizes, genders, ages, and races. In fact, 16% of all Tennesseans have a disability. Some disabilities are noticeable by looking at a person (e.g., a person who uses a wheelchair). On the other hand, disabilities can also be “hidden,” or not noticeable just by looking at the person. Examples of hidden disabilities include mental health disorders (bipolar, schizophrenia, PTSD, and more), autism, traumatic brain injury, and intellectual disability. 

Every individual, regardless of disability, should have meaningful and equal access to health care providers, facilities, diagnostics, and information. Health care equality is literally a matter of life or death, especially for individuals with disabilities who have unique and diverse needs. However, prior to the enactment of federal anti-discrimination laws, such as The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, individuals with disabilities were treated like second-class citizens. People with disabilities were often ignored, cast aside, or hidden from society, and denied basic protection under the law, which severely limited their ability to participate in even the simplest of acts, such as going to the doctor[1].


Every individual, regardless of disability, should have meaningful and equal access to health care providers, facilities, diagnostics, and information.


Deaf patient lays on hospital bed. Doctor stands at bedside. Interpreter stands by doctor.The ADA mandates that state and local governments and places of public accommodation, including health care facilities, provide equal access to programs and services for individuals with disabilities. The ADA directs publicly and privately-owned health care facilities to provide equal access through means such as: reasonable modifications, effective communication, and accessible buildings, so people with disabilities can access their health care.

“Even twenty-eight years after the ADA, Tennesseans still face barriers to equal health care. All people, regardless of disability, should have meaningful access to health care so that they can live happy and healthy lives,” says Stacie Price, DRT Attorney.

While many strides have been made over the years to break down barriers to health care for individuals with disabilities, there is much more work to be done. This year, DRT is sharing the basics of health care equality under the ADA and other applicable federal anti-discrimination laws. Over the next four months we will be sharing real-life stories of how Tennesseans with disabilities have been impacted by or overcame a barrier to health care equality. Join us by signing up for our newsletter, following along on Facebook or following along on Twitter.


Read more about what #HealthCareEquality looks like for Tennesseans with disabilities in our expanded booklet. 

Cover of Health Care Equality for Tennesseans with disabilities. Blue background with geometric white lines. Cover images shows a female patient in a hospital gown hugging a dog.

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[1] Ending the Disconnect for the Deaf Community:  How Amendments to the Federal Regulations Can Realign the ADA with its Purpose, 29 Cardozo Arts & Ent. L.J. 425, 226 (2011).

Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) is a nonprofit legal services organization that provides free legal advocacy services to protect the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities.

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