Accessing health care services can be problematic for people with disabilities. Inaccessible medical offices and equipment and unsure or uncomfortable physicians can be among the barriers that lead to this. Many people with disabilities are uninsured or underinsured. Providers might also be so focused on the person’s disability that they neglect to discuss other health issues. Learn how to navigate the health care system and become an active participant in your health care.


Some Tips:

  • Learn about home health care, including the types of services commonly provided and how to choose providers (from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service)

  • Provide physicians the tools to become willing and able to effectively manage care (from United Cerebral Palsy and the Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation)

Health Insurance:


People with disabilities may receive benefits from several federal health programs. Medicare covers a broad range of health services for people with permanent disabilities as well those 65 or older. Medicaid covers people with disabilities who have lower incomes.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the comprehensive health care reform law enacted in 2010. ACA is the most significant law for people with disabilities since the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. It will bring about comprehensive reforms that will benefit Americans with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination based on health status and improving access to care. Read more about the Affordable Care Act and People with Disabilities.

Health insurance laws vary by state. Please direct questions about coverage guidelines and protections in your state to the appropriate state health insurance department, which can be located online through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website.


HealthCare.Gov – All about the Affordable Care Act including specifics of the law, how to find insurance options and how to compare quality of care.


Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – CMS is a federal agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that administers the Medicare program and works in partnership with state governments to administer Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and health insurance portability standards.



Pain in Cerebral Palsy (PDF) – January 2015 publication from United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation (CPIRF), Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center. Overview of pain in CP, including causes, treatments and resources to find health care providers familiar with CP.


Women’s Health:


Women with disabilities have many of the same health concerns and needs as all women—such as needing routine breast and cervical cancer screens or treatment for the flu or an infection. They also might have special health concerns related to their disabilities or illnesses.

However, there are barriers—both physical and attitudinal— that keep women with disabilities from getting screening and preventive care that can compromise their health. Many of the health disparities identified through research on women with disabilities may be traced back to problems in accessing health care or lack of providers who are informed about health in the context of disabilities.

According to the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD), women with disabilities are often denied reproductive and other types of health care, or given substandard care compared to women with uncomplicated health care needs. Several studies have documented the lack of health insurance among women with disabilities.




People with disabilities are living longer with better health care and supports. Older adults with disabilities have unique health care needs–the normal aging process is often complicated by a lifetime of reduced mobility, poorer general health, medications, surgeries, etc. Symptoms such as pain, arthritis, joint problems, and fatigue are not uncommon.

Preventive Health Care Screening Guidelines for People Aging with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (PDF) –  Report summarizing what health care providers, individuals with disabilities, families and care givers need to know to make sure that individuals with disabilities receive the appropriate medical  and preventative health care and other environmental supports they require throughout their lifespan so that they may focus on maximizing their abilities as they age.

An Introduction to Aging and Cerebral Palsy – Overview of the aging process in people with cerebral palsy.


Oral Health:


Special Care Dentistry Association

International organization of oral health professionals and other individuals who are dedicated to promoting oral health and well being for people with special needs. Provides a forum for oral health and other professionals to communicate, exchange ideas, and work together to improve oral health for people with special needs.


State Oral Health Program Directors

Contact information for the state dental programs.


University based dental schools often have free or low cost dental clinics that serve people in their communities. This list contains all accredited dental education programs in the United States.


Mental Health Resources: – provides one-stop access to U.S. government mental health and mental health problems information.

Mental Health Resources, Inc. – offers community- based mental health services to adults recovering from mental illness.

National Alliance on Mental Illness – the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.


Other Helpful Resources:

ADA Guidelines for Accessible Medical Care – Overview of the requirements for medical care facilities including accessible examination rooms and medical equipment.


American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine Referral Directory – Directory of medical providers who specialize in cerebral palsy and developmental medicine.