Local News

Advocates say more work needed to aid disabled

Posted July 26, 2010 6:16 p.m. EDT
Updated July 26, 2010 6:53 p.m. EDT

— Twenty years after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, access for disabled people has become part of everyday life, from parking spots to bathrooms to elevators.

"The Americans with Disabilities Act opened the doors to the community for people with disabilities," Vicki Smith, executive director of advocacy group Disability Rights North Carolina, said Monday.

Although significant strides have been made, Smith said, more work needs to be done. The promise of the ADA hasn't reached some groups, such as the mentally ill and people who are deaf, particularly in the area of health care, she said.

Daniel Johnson, who lost his hearing when he was 8, said the ADA calls for physicians to provide a sign-language interpreter for him when he has a medical appointment, but that rarely happens. Most doctors, including one he saw last year, prefer communicating with him through handwritten notes, he said.

"The doctor was very short and curt in his writing back and forth. He really didn't have time to explain what my problem was," Johnson said. "Doctors are not providing accessible communication."

Because of a lack of detailed communication, he said, he was misdiagnosed. Several months later, he found out through a written note from another doctor that he had a cancerous tumor.

"Imagine all the misdiagnoses that have happened (through the years) because a qualified interpreter has not been provided," he said.