Lack of Availability, Accessibility, and Reasonable Accommodations
Quality and specialized health care services are not provided in some provinces, particularly in remote and rural areas. People living in these locations often must travel to major cities to access more advanced health care services or visit a specialist. Vajiheh, a 41-year-old woman with a physical disability who lives with her son, explained, “If I have to go, my son needs to take time off from his job, rent a private taxi, carry me and my wheelchair, and take me to the clinic or hospital. It’s all a huge burden, which I try my best not to impose on him.” Ehsan, 37, who has a spinal cord injury, said that in order to visit a specialist he needs to travel to another province, which would take at least four hours.Reihaneh, whose daughter Yasamin has intellectual disabilities, also said that she had to travel three hours to Tehran once a week for several years for her daughter to access quality occupational therapy and physiotherapy.
Upon reaching a hospital or clinic, persons with disabilities often cannot access them. Saeed, a 28-year-old man who uses crutches, described one experience that kept him from receiving treatment for his eyes:
It happens a lot that I need to go up somewhere without an elevator. I sit on the stairs and pull my body upstairs by the railings. This is not something new. But one day I had to reach the doctor’s office on [the] third floor, and the stairs were uneven and narrow, and the stair railings broken and unsafe. I feared I would fall and get injured. So, I decided just to live with my eye condition and not go up such stairs.”
Vajiheh, 41, has been using a wheelchair for the past 10 years. She said that many essential medical services in her town do not have ramps or elevators. “It’s not just the clinics, I also can’t purchase anything from the drug store because all of them are upstairs,” she said. “The same is true about other health care facilities such as labs or radiology facilities.”Ziba, a woman who uses a wheelchair, said that she has been hospitalized in two public hospitals where bathrooms in them were inaccessible. She could not enter the bathroom with her wheelchair and there was no grab bar to facilitate her using the bathroom independently.
Blind people and those with low vision said that they do not go to health care facilities alone because the buildings are not accessible and staff there do not provide them with accommodations. People interviewed described how they faced barriers in finding their way, filling out different forms, or purchasing medicines or other medical products. Some people who are blind or have low vision also said that neither the prescribing physician nor drug store personnel would assist them in understanding how they should identify different medications and how to use them.
Deaf and hard of hearing persons interviewed said that they cannot use health care services independently due to the lack of sign language interpreters. Shahla, a deaf woman living in Tehran said, “There is no sign language interpreter provided in the hospitals or clinics. I have to ask my mother to accompany me if I become sick. If she is not available, then I don’t go. Because if I go alone, they won’t understand what my medical need is and could give me the wrong medication.” Sohrab, who is deaf and has been an advocate for deaf persons’ rights for several years, said that deaf persons “do their best to avoid going to hospitals or other medical facilities because people hardly understand them, which is really annoying.”