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A Disabled Physician’s Advice on Disabled Patients

How physicians can better serve their disabled patients by Delia O’Hara

In a 2021 survey in Health Affairs, just 57% of 700 doctors said they would welcome patients with disabilities into their practices. Even fewer, only 41%, thought they could provide disabled patients with quality care. Given that 25% of American adults have some type of disability, these were discouraging findings.

It was not news, however, to Allison Kessler, MD, section chief of the Renée Crown Center for Spinal Cord Innovation at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Dr. Kessler herself sustained a spinal cord injury as a teenager in a skiing accident and now uses a wheelchair. She is married and the mother of two young children, and an advocate for the rights of disabled people to live full lives and enjoy equal access to health care.

Dr. Kessler is passionate about changing the attitudes and practices that keep disabled people from getting the care they need. She spoke to Chicago Medicine about what she thinks doctors can and should do to serve their disabled patients. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Read the interview here:

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