#WebinarWednesday

September Webinars

Mark your calendar for #WebinarWednesday. During the month of September, The Center for Dignity will be hosting #WebinarWednesday each week at 12pm (EST). During each session we will present medical recommendations to close the gap in healthcare inequities for people with disabilities.  Wednesday, Sept 7th: Prenatal Diagnosis. Wednesday, Sept 14th: Mental Health/Suicide Prevention. Wednesday, Sept 21st: Organ Transplantation. Wed, Sept 28th: Aging/End of Life.

During the month of September, the Center for Dignity will be hosting a webinar each Wednesday to present and discuss the recommendations from all four of our subcommittees. ASL Interpreters will be provided. Bring your lunch (or breakfast if you’re on the West Coast) and join us for a panel discussion on recommendations to close the gap in healthcare inequities among people with disabilities. To register for all 4 of our #WebinarWednesday (or just one), please click here.

In Response to the Reversal of Roe v. Wade and Its Impact on People With Disabilities

The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities is deeply concerned about the overturning of Roe v Wade and what it means for the control people with disabilities have over their reproductive health. As an organization that is dedicated to addressing healthcare inequities faced by people with disabilities, we know that a more reproductively just system would reduce healthcare inequities among this population. 

While many urge for reproductive rights, arguing that people should have access to abortion so that they are able to control whether or not they are pregnant, we would also like to call for more reproductive justice. By this, we mean that we call for a system that looks at unjust reproductive control as a whole. Unfortunately, disenfranchised people, and including people with disabilities, not only lack access to the option to terminate a pregnancy, but also lack the support and healthcare to choose to become pregnant. Many of these women are usually multiply marginalized (BIPOC, Poor, Queer, etc) and often report not having equitable access to any type of reproductive medicine. Thus far, their stories have been excluded from much of the dialogue around the overturning of Roe.

"While many urge for reproductive rights, arguing that people should have access to abortion so that they are able to control whether or not they are pregnant, we would also like to call for more reproductive justice. By this, we mean that we call for a system that looks at unjust reproductive control as a whole." 
Image of Center for Dignity Logo and row of 5 faceless people standing together.

Research shows us that these healthcare inequities for people with disabilities exist due to a system rooted in ableism and stigma that produces a lack of access. This begins with a lack of access to sex education, which leads to many people with disabilities deprived of a full understanding of their options for controlling their own reproduction. For those that have had access to sex education within their communities, many people with disabilities report being removed from these opportunities due to ableism and stigma that people with disabilities are de-sexualized and are not or should not be having sexual relations to begin with. This de-sexualization of people with disabilities also further creates gaps in access to birth control and/or morning after pills as providers often make ableist assumptions about reproductive health. 

Access to abortion and reproductive health is a matter of healthcare equity and must be part of trauma informed care.  Many people with disabilities experience health conditions associated with their disability that require abortion access. These health conditions make pregnancy risky for the life and health of the disabled person. Further, we know that 83% of women with disabilities (Stimpson & Best, 1991) experience sexual violence in their lifetimes. This number is double to that of their nondisabled peers. Access to abortion services is vitally important in these situations.

The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities strongly encourages a framing of reproductive justice that takes a more holistic view of access to reproduction and all of the health supports it entails. The health care inequities against people with disabilities is explicit and interferes in people’s reproductive choices at all levels- in both choosing a pregnancy and in choosing to terminate a pregnancy. 


The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities Comments to Communications Equality Advocates Petition for Reconsideration

The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities (CDHPD) submits the following comments to Communications Equality Advocates Petition for Reconsideration.  CDHPD aims to reduce healthcare inequities faced by people with disabilities and is composed of partners from multiple University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), medical and advocacy organizations. One of our four focus areas includes reducing healthcare inequities in mental health and suicide prevention. Thus, we are committed to ensuring that any system aimed at addressing suicide is accessible for all. 

While we commend the effort to secure a three-digit dialing code for accessing mental health services in time of crisis, by not adding text-to-988 capabilities and not ensuring Direct Video Calling capabilities, the system will have failed many of those it aims to help. This is because the three digit dialing code will not be universally accessible.  In particular, people who are deaf or hard of hearing and in crisis will not have access to this life saving resource. This lack of equity would be a problem by itself, but it is even more amplified by the fact that the data show a higher than average rate of suicidality in some segments of the deaf and hard of hearing population. For example, in a recent study examining hearing and nonhearing college students, it was found that, in fact, Deaf and hard-of hearing women reported a significantly higher suicide attempt rate than hearing women.   

Further, it also appears that by failing to include the text-to 988 capabilities and Direct Video Calling Capabilities, this new service will be in direct violation of disability civil rights law that has been the law of the land for decades.  First, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 705 (20) of this title, shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.” Given that the proposed three-digit dialing code for accessing mental health services in time of crisis is a federally sponsored program and that deaf and hard of hearing individuals experiencing a mental health crisis are 

certainly otherwise qualified to receive this service, not providing access to them by way of the text-to 988 capabilities and Direct Video Calling Capabilities seems to be in direct violation of this legal protection.  

Further, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which will receive all contacts from the three-digit dialing code for accessing mental health services in time of crisis is a clear example of a Public Accomodation that is bound by Section III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Specifically, § 36.202 (a) reads, “A public accommodation shall not subject an individual or class of individuals on the basis of a disability or disabilities of such individual or class, directly, or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements, to a denial of the opportunity of the individual or class to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accom-modations of a place of public accommodation.”  Even more specifically, with regards to deaf and hard of hearing people being denied access to publicly available services, § 36.303 states that “A public accommodation shall take those steps that may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services.”  It goes on to specifically define auxiliary aids and services as including “voice, text, and video-based telecommunications products and systems, including text telephones (TTYs), videophones, and captioned telephones, or equally effective telecommunications devices; videotext displays; accessible electronic and information technology; or other effective methods of making aurally delivered information available to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

There seems to be a clearly established mandate for making these services accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community that even goes beyond existing civil rights law.  For example, the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) includes “provisions to ensure that people with disabilities have access to emergency information such as the next generation of 911 services and emergency information on the television.”  This seems to establish a clear precedent for doing the same with 988 services.  Both 911 and 988 services are envisioned as nationwide, 3 digit points of access for all Americans in times of emergency.  Both ought to be accessible to anyone who may have a need to call upon them.

 References:
1. Samar, V., Pollard R., O’Hearn A, Lalley P., Sutter, E. Barnett S., Klein J., Finigan E., Steider A., Starr M., Havens C., Dean R., David T., Testa-Wojteczko B., Fogg T. (April 2009). Deaf Students & Suicide: The Peculiar Relationship of Gender, Reading & Suicide [Conference Poster] ADARA San Antonio. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/MediaLibraries/URMCMedia/ncdhr/publications-presentations/documents/SuicidePosterADARAapril2009.pdf

2. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/oasam/centers-offices/civil-rights-center/statutes/section-504-rehabilitation-act-of-1973

3.

https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/titleIII_2010/titleIII_2010_regulations.pdf

4.

https://www.fcc.gov/general/twenty-first-century-communications-and-video-accessibility-act-0

Statement on the Death of Michael Hickson

The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities mourns the death of Michael Hickson, a 46-year-old man, husband, and father of five. Mr. Hickson was a Black man who acquired spinal cord and brain injuries in 2017 after a sudden cardiac arrest. Like so many in our country ravaged by the current pandemic, Mr. Hickson sought care from his local hospital for treatment for COVID-19. He had contracted COVID-19 from a staff member of a nursing home. Mr. Hickson was denied treatment based on the belief that treatment would not improve his quality of life. 

Mr. Hickson’s wife, Melissa, recorded and posted a video of the doctor explaining why care was denied. An unidentified doctor is heard saying, “So as of right now his quality of life, he doesn’t have much of one.”

Melissa asked, “What do you mean? Because he’s paralyzed with a brain injury he doesn’t have a quality of life?” The doctor responded, “Correct.”

The Hickson family’s tragic loss places a spotlight on the false conclusion that life with a disability isn’t one of quality. The Office for Civil Rights released a memo in March 2020 stating, “Persons with disabilities should not be denied medical care on the basis of stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgements about a person’s relative “worth” based on the presence or absence of disabilities or age.” Despite this clarification of civil rights in healthcare settings, these inequities persist; in this case and others, they cost the lives of Americans with disabilities.

The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities was founded to correct the misconception that there is not value or dignity in life with a disability. Mr. Hickson was a cherished husband, father, and person. We denounce the denial of care, during this pandemic and always, explicitly on the basis of disability and the biased belief that a life with a disability is not worth living. We call for more just and culturally competent healthcare for all Americans, including those with disabilities.  

For more information on how to join the Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities in the fight against medical discrimination and ableism, email [email protected]. Learn more about your rights during COVID-19 here.