Opinion

Raising the bar for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

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This year marks 25 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation to end discrimination on the basis of disability. Despite this, many healthcare facilities and services remain inaccessible to patients, particularly those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID).

An urban academic medical centre in the Unites States, namely Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago, Illinois, is beginning to make headway, fostering a culture of inclusion and embracing disability as diversity (see the April issue of Nursing Management).

It has at least 24 disability-related programmes and services that use specific standards of care for patients with ID.

Using these standards, nursing staff can focus better on communication, environmental adaptations, caregiver transitions and role strain. As a result, we have had many of our post-graduate nursing students engage in inpatient and community based projects that address the need of individuals with ID.

A recent communication from a nurse who works in a facility with 73 people with ID read: ‘I have been working with our local hospital to improve services for the disabled and would be very grateful if I would be able to visit your hospital and speak with someone to explain your services and how you train your staff.’

To cut a long story short, initiatives such as ours enhance the care of individuals with ID and help organisations become exemplars of good practice.

About the author

Tanya Friese is an instructor in community, systems and mental health nursing at Rush University College of Nursing, and educational co-ordinator of the Road Home Program, at the Center for Veterans and Their Families, both in Chicago, Illinois