Improving Accessibility in Healthcare Institutions


In today’s society, access to healthcare is a fundamental right that should be available to everyone, regardless of their physical abilities. However, many barriers hinder individuals, especially those with disabilities, from accessing essential healthcare services. This article sheds light on the importance of accessibility in healthcare institutions and the ongoing efforts to make healthcare services more inclusive and accessible to all individuals, irrespective of their physical abilities.
Some of the common challenges in Accessing Healthcare include:
Physical or Architectural Barriers: Issues like inaccessible entrances, lack of ramps, and narrow doorways can prevent individuals with disabilities from entering healthcare facilities.
Communication Barriers: Limited availability of information in accessible formats can hinder understanding and communication with healthcare providers.
Attitudinal Barriers: Negative attitudes of staff and denial of treatment can create unwelcoming environments for individuals with disabilities.
Social/Economical Barriers: Factors like transportation problems and lack of coordination among healthcare providers can limit access to healthcare services.
Various efforts that can be taken towards accessibility in healthcare are:
Removing Physical and Architectural Barriers-Ensure accessible entrances, parking, and paths of travel to the facility. Design doors, corridors, and rooms with adequate space for wheelchair users. Provide accessible medical equipment and furniture. Design facilities to be usable by all people, regardless of their abilities and prioritize ease of use, efficiency, and safety for patients.
Improving Communication and Information Access- it is important to offer information in alternative formats like braille, large print, and audio. We must provide assistive listening devices and sign language interpreters and ensure that all websites and electronic information are accessible.
Addressing Attitudinal Barriers- there is a need to train staff on disability awareness and sensitivity and promote a welcoming and inclusive environment for patients with disabilities. It is also imperative to ensure equal treatment and prevent denial of services.
Expanding Telehealth Services- We mustoffer remote access to healthcare providers via videoconferencing. Also, improve care coordination for patients, especially in rural areas and provide a more affordable option for those facing cost barriers.
Government Initiatives: Programs like the Accessible India Campaign aim to remove societal barriers and enhance accessibility to public buildings, including healthcare institutions
There are various assistive technologies that can be used to improving accessibility in healthcare environments. Some of these are listed below:

  • Mobility aids like wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, and crutches to facilitate movement within healthcare facilities.
  • Hearing aids for individuals with hearing impairments to enhance communication and interaction with healthcare providers.
  • Cognitive aids such as computer or electrical devices to assist individuals with memory or attention challenges in their thinking skills.
  • Robotics for daily assistance, which can aid individuals with disabilities in household activities and mobility.
  • Neurotechnology breakthroughs like brain-computer interfaces for direct communication between the brain and assistive devices, benefiting those with severe motor impairments.
    These assistive technologies play a crucial role in enhancing accessibility in healthcare environments, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can receive the care they need effectively and comfortably.
    Government of India under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) launched Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) as a nation-wide Campaign for achieving universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) on December 3,2015. It has three important verticals, namely –
  • The Build Environment which focuses on building an accessible physical environment that benefits everyone, not just persons with disabilities. Measures should be undertaken to eliminate obstacles and barriers to indoor and outdoor facilities including schools, medical facilities, and workplaces. Further these would include all public spaces such as roads, footpaths, parks and gardens.
    n The transportation sectorwhich is a vital component for independent living, and like others in society, PwDs rely on transportation facilities to move from one place to another.
  • The ICT ecosystem- Access to information creates opportunities for everyone in society. People use information in many forms to make decisions about their daily lives. This can range from actions such as being able to read price tags, to physically enter a hall, to participate in an event, to read a pamphlet with healthcare information, to understand a train timetable, or to view webpages.
    Ensuring accessibility in healthcare institutions is not just a matter of convenience but a crucial step towards providing equitable healthcare services to all individuals. By addressing and removing barriers, healthcare facilities can become more inclusive and welcoming to individuals with disabilities, ultimately improving the overall quality of healthcare services.
    (The writer is Assistant Professor, Community Medicine, AIIMS Jammu).
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