About the Project

Persistent Barriers to Care

Jim LeBrechtPeople with disabilities frequently encounter well-documented barriers to care that include limited architectural and programmatic accessibility (PDF) and lack of accommodations in healthcare settings such as accessible examination equipment and weight scales, Sign Language interpreters, and print materials in accessible formats such as large print, audio, and digital.

Perhaps even more concerning, however is the prevalence of misinformation and stereotypes about disability among healthcare providers, which stem from the fact that few medical education programs include disability awareness and competency courses in their curriculums. Moreover, until enactment of the Federal 2010 Affordable Care Act, most federally funded health disparities research did not recognize or include people with disabilities as a disparity population.

Federal Reports Document Problems

Francis DeloachKey health policy stakeholders have focused attention in recent years on these problems and have begun identifying solutions. For example, The U.S. Surgeon General’s 2005 Call to Action To Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities identified key problems and called on various stakeholders to take action. The seminal 2007 report, The Future of Disability in America, issued by the Institute of Medicine not only drew scathing attention to the issues, but also firmly established disability as a health disparities indicator rather than just the outcome of disease processes. For the first time, “Healthy People 2010”, the Federal Government’s statement of national health objectives, moved away from focusing on disability prevention and toward promoting secondary illness and disease prevention for people with disabilities.

About DREDF’s Healthcare Work

Mary Lou at her deskThe Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) is a national law and policy center dedicated to advancing the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education and public policy and legislative development.

We advocate for state and federal laws and policies that chip away at the complex barriers people with disabilities experience when they try to access healthcare. We also conduct research, author journal articles, comment on federal healthcare regulations, train Medicaid managed care health plans, develop model policies for accommodating people with disabilities in medical settings, and build alliances with like-minded colleagues in the health policy and aging fields.

For almost a decade, we have been tackling the pervasive barriers that prevent people with disabilities from getting equitable healthcare. New research findings on the health of people with disabilities, taken together with education, and legal and policy advocacy by DREDF and other advocates, have spurred some important victories. Yet, as a community, we continue to encounter challenges, including obstacles to effectively getting our message across to policy makers, accreditation organizations, professional training institutions, and practitioners alike. The persistent barriers to care people with disabilities experience every day simply have not reached the national spotlight. Healthcare Stories aims to change that.

Video Advocacy

Nick Ziemer on set.Video advocacy uses new image technologies to produce documentary campaigns for social and political change through visual evidence, personal stories, and precise audience targeting. Video advocacy has had a strong impact on organized advocacy and grassroots action in many areas and has become an effective new tool in the non-profit social justice community. As communications media change, digital technology, including widespread use of video storytelling, has exploded because it supports a culture of participation and sharing. Healthcare Stories takes advantage of this vital tool.


We wish to thank our stalwart video team, Dave Nold and Hanna Liebl, and our talented still photographer, Anne Hamersky. Thanks also to Sciopticom for video editing support, captioning, audio description, and web site development. It goes without saying that the video project would not have been possible without The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation and The Special Hope Foundation and their faith in the role videos can play in achieving social change. We also especially want to thank the many people who expressed their willingness to tell their stories.