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NCD announces policymaker blueprint for health equity for people with disabilities

Smiling father sitting next to disabled son in wheelchair by hospital bed, talking together

The National Council on Disability (NCD) releases a framework for policymakers, calling for an all-of-government approach to longstanding medical discrimination against people with disabilities, the largest unrecognized minority group in this country.

NCD’s Health Equity Framework provides a roadmap for fixing systemic barriers within our healthcare system and references many examples of the well-documented health disparities and inequities that demand action for over 61 million people with disabilities.

In February 2021, NCD Chairman Andrés Gallegos released his Vision and Priority Statement, setting the Council’s focus during his tenure on health equity as the predicate to people with disabilities being able to live, learn, and earn on an equal basis.

Over the last year, NCD engaged with stakeholders, policymakers, and a “dream team” of experts who have dedicated their careers to researching and addressing the health disparities of people with disabilities. The framework is a culmination of that work.

“The extensive disparities are well researched. The pervasiveness of discrimination is well documented. The systemic barriers to care and treatment are well known,” said Chairman Gallegos. “It is more than past time to move with deliberateness and urgency to a posture of action and solution, and this framework offers a blueprint for policymakers.”

The framework presents four core foundational elements: the designation of people with disabilities as a Special Medically Underserved Population; requiring comprehensive disability clinical-care curricula for medical providers; accessible medical diagnostic equipment; and improved data capturing; and then offers 35 additional components.

“As a medical provider and advocate, I am aware of the acute need for disability clinical care curricula and training, and what a difference in outcomes its presence or absence can spell,” said Council Member Dr. Rick Rader. “In addition to clinical care competency, this training will also help to change the attitudes, views, and values towards the disability community.”

“Getting the health care piece right for people with disabilities is the gateway for progress in other areas like employment,” said Council Member Neil Romano. “Access to competent and accessible care is a lynchpin to the ‘full opportunity’ set out as a national goal under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

“One need look no further than our current COVID-19 pandemic for the latest sobering round of health disparities examples for people with disabilities,” said Vice Chair Jim Brett. “We need to see a political will to engage these solutions that at least equals the devastating loss of life people with disabilities have experienced during the pandemic.”

The Council is considering the framework a “living” document that it anticipates updating at regular intervals as progress is achieved and new needs are identified.

NCD is an independent, nonpartisan federal agency that advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy. The framework is available at NCD.gov.

Stakeholders are invited to join a discussion about the framework Feb. 23, 2-2:45 p.m. EST via Zoom. Registration is available on NCD’s Eventbrite page.

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