Health access for people with disability

6 September 2019

ACTCOSS has been working with project partners and the Office For Disability to understand what can be learned about barriers to, and enablers of, better access for people with disabilities to health care in the ACT and region. The work is part of the ACT’s commitment to the National Disability Strategy.


Imagining Better Report


ACTCOSS has released a report called Imagining Better – Reflections on access, choice and control in ACT health services for people with disability. This report is from a project conducted by ACTCOSS with support from the ACT Office For Disability as part of the ACT’s commitment to implementing the National Disability Strategy.


The report shows that people with disability self-report poor health outcomes arising from personal and structural issues:


    • Economic disadvantage


    • Diagnostic overshadowing (where a person’s disability is treated as the problem rather than a person’s presenting medical condition)


    • Poor attitudes, including a lack of a social model for responding to disability or health within clinical settings


    • Inadequate digital and physical infrastructure leading to access barriers and poor communications


    • Service gaps including a lack of tailored services to help manage diagnostic conditions (i.e, to understand, treat and manage the primary and secondary health impacts of different kinds of disabilities)



It notes some areas of good practice and positive investments including at the new University of Canberra Hospital. The report concludes that tangible, specific initiatives with adequate investments are needed to improve access to health services, while a package of work and measures is needed to ensure more supports and cohesion at the NDIS and health interface, including ensuring disability supports continue whilst people access health services.


Report: Imagining Better – Reflections on access, choice and control in ACT health services for people with disability


This report is the culmination of period of interrelated data gathering, lived experience, policy work and appreciative inquiry work. Some of the supporting components of this work included:


A Cure for Wellness – the health focussed edition of the Canberra Disability Review


This was produced in partnership with People With Disabilities ACT to help start a community conversation and catalyse engagement from the disability rights community in the ACT.


A Cure for Wellness – the health focussed edition of the Canberra Disability Review


Medicopoly – access, choice and control in health


Developing an infographic illustrating choice and control issues relevant to health status and access to care. The “Medicopoly” infographic presented some issues within a game of chance to illustrate the unplanned and random way that health events can occur, as well as the lack of choice and control that people with disability experience in their health histories – including the ability to foresee and manage events that other people would take for granted. Key performance indicators against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (CRPD), especially Article 25, provides a way of interpreting health within a human rights framework and illuminated the gap between social and medical models of disability.


Medicopoly – access, choice and control in health (PDF) | (docx – text only)


Interactive panel – International Day of People with Disability 2017


An interactive panel of people with disability used this game-based methodology to inform practitioners and policy makers about what they can do to better serve people with disability. The session, held in conjunction with the United Nations International Day of People with Disability, invited preventative health providers (everyone from pharmacists to dentists) to hear directly from a panel of people with disabilities about the barriers that they experience accessing primary, natural and preventative health care. It used the “Medicopoly” game to spark that discussion, highlight a range of issues and prompt a lively, interactive and non-threatening sharing of perspectives.


ACTCOSS captured the event via Facebook live.


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