People with intellectual disabilities (ID) are one of the most medically underserved populations. Due to a range of systemic challenges, they have less access to quality health care and health promotion programs. As a result, people with ID experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death1 . While there have been improvements over the years, the fact remains that people with ID still face significant health disparities not associated with their disabilities.
Organizations across the public health system can take action to decrease these health disparities by removing barriers and improving access to health services for people with ID. The inclusion of people with ID in existing health programs is an effective way of improving their health. Inclusion is more than simply having a person with ID in the same room; intentional inclusion is a deliberate effort, and should start as the project/activity/event is developed. Intentional inclusion means including people with ID as part of the planning, implementation, and decision-making process. It also means valuing the input, perspectives, and roles that people with ID bring to the effort. Finally, intentional inclusion means making sure organizations have both procedures and practices in place to support and promote inclusion.
Below are some tips for taking the first steps to becoming inclusive of people with ID. You can find more tips and details in the Inclusive Health Principles and Strategies resource.
- Ensure your programs and physical spaces are accessible and welcoming to people with ID. This includes providing necessary accommodations such as sensory supports, ensuring staff are available to assist with questions, and building in additional time for meetings or preparation. Another important part of creating a welcoming space is learning disability etiquette, such as directly addressing the person with ID, not his/her caretaker.
Download the fact sheet.