Women with Disabilities and Breast Cancer: Know Your Rights

Women with disabilities have an absolute right to receive breast cancer screening and ICS is here to help you when you are seeking this kind of care. Our “Know Your Rights” tip sheet is available in Spanish and English, and designed to support you in getting regular breast exams and cancer screenings. Developed with a grant from the NYC Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® we hope that the tip sheet will also raise awareness among providers.
Women with Disabilities and Breast Cancer: Know Your Rights

Marilyn Saviola, ICS Senior Vice President for Advocacy and the Women’s Health Access Program, has worked for over 40 years fighting on behalf of people with physical disabilities. Marilyn is passionate about the right of all women to have access to all health care, especially potentially life-saving care.

“The barriers women with disabilities face in trying to access health care are multiple, from architectural barriers in the built environment to inaccessible equipment like exam tables and mammography machines to attitudinal barriers. I know this from personal experience, the experiences of my friends, and the experiences of ICS’s members.”

The “Know Your Rights” tip sheet highlights the increased health risks faced by women with disabilities, the importance of receiving regular mammograms, and the ways in which women can communicate with clinic staff to ensure that they receive the care they need. It explains what to talk to clinicians about before your visit. For example, we suggest if you use a wheelchair, that you ask if the mammography machine is adjustable so that you can stay seated in your chair. Let them know whether you can stand, and for how long. Check if they have an accessible bathroom and dressing room. If not, ask them what accommodations they can make.

Many women are nervous about the prospect of a practitioner saying that they cannot accommodate for the patient’s disability. The tip sheet recognizes this common—and legitimate—concern and informs women of their rights.

“Health care providers can’t turn you away because of your disability, and many women don’t know that,” says Marilyn. “Facility staff are required to provide you with accessible medical equipment, to help position or transfer you, and to take the time needed to meet your specific needs. All women have the right to accessible health care, and we hope that this tip sheet will encourage and support women with disabilities to seek out that care.”

Need a bit more encouragement. Watch Marilyn in action here.

Regina Weiss

Regina Weiss

Communications Director

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