Agnès Bourdon-Busin, administrator of "France Asso santé" for APF France Handicap, member of the Council for the Commitment of Users of the High Authority for Health.



Agnès Bourdon-Busin, administrator of "France Asso santé" for APF France Handicap, member of the Council for the Commitment of Users of the High Authority for Health.

The problems of access to healthcare services for persons with disabilities are numerous in France today. We are lagging far behind when it comes to the accessibility of doctors’ offices. Particularly in old buildings, work has not been undertaken to bring the buildings up to standard. The various laws and decrees since 2005 have largely contributed to this delay. There are many exemptions and the owners of the premises (health professionals are often tenants) refuse or delay the work.  Access to buildings is not the only obstacle: the equipment is rarely adapted to a good reception. For example, in gynaecology, the tables are not adapted for persons with physical disabilities, and there are very few radiology centres where it is possible to carry out a mammogram in a sitting position.

There is also a lot to be said concerning the attention given to persons with disabilities by health care providers. Most of the time, when you complain about something, but the doctor can’t figure out what it is, it’s easier for them to say “it’s due to your disability, your illness”. They don’t look any further. But you just have to listen to the person: if the patient says it’s not related to their disability, then it’s not! Often the patient knows more about their disability or illness than the doctor, and knows better than anyone else how to deal with their problems. Sometimes it is just by listening to us that better care can be provided.

Furthermore, when persons with disabilities come with a personal assistant, medical practitioners tend to forget about the person with disabilities and go directly to the assistant. It is true that it is often quicker to address the assistant. However, it is essential to take the person into account, to use simple language such as easy to read and understand (FALC in French), to put oneself in front of the person in order to better capture their attention and thus to be entirely focused on them, especially if they have a sensory and/or intellectual or psychosocial disability. It would therefore be essential to reinforce the training of medical and paramedical staff. Disability is very rarely addressed in the course of studies and often in an optional way. However, raising awareness very early on among future professionals, providing them with solutions, is essential for them to be able to take into account the difficulties encountered by persons with disabilities, to acquire knowledge and good interpersonal skills.