People with intellectual disabilities (ID) are one of the most medically underserved groups in the world and are often left out of most aspects of the health system, which has resulted in significant health disparities for this population. The intent of Inclusive Health is to support existing programs to become inclusive and accessible, rather than to create separate programs for people with ID. Including people with ID in existing health programs has the potential to improve health outcomes for people with ID while reducing health care costs for society. This resource provides practical information for any organization in the broader health system on how to take the first steps to make their policies and practices inclusive of people with ID to help close this gap in health outcomes.
People with ID face a number of barriers in the health care and public health system. Common barriers include:
- Attitudinal barriers – misconceptions that people with ID cannot live long and healthy lives
- Communication barriers – the use of complicated and inaccessible language
- Policy barriers – the lack of enforcement of existing laws regarding access to health
- Programmatic barriers – the failure to make reasonable accommodations for people with ID
- Social barriers – the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, learn, work, and age
- Physical barriers – structural challenges that block mobility
The four strategies outlined in this resource were created to help address these barriers and formed under two foundational principles of Inclusive Health: Equitable Access and Full Participation. Equitable Access means ensuring that people have access to the services and resources necessary to achieve their full health potential. Full Participation means that people with ID are fully and meaningfully included in health programs and services. The four strategies detailed in the resource are:
- Welcoming Spaces: Ensuring your programs and physical spaces are accessible and welcoming to people with ID.
- Communication: Ensuring your communications, including written and spoken language, materials, and interactions with the community are accessible to people with ID.
- Awareness and Training: Understanding your community and training your staff on the barriers and challenges faced by people with ID, including on how to remove them.
- Sustainable and Intentional Inclusion: Building intentional and sustainable inclusion by changing organizational culture to value and understand inclusion.
We encourage you to take a look at the entire resource. However, the beginnings of your Inclusive Health journey can come from simply engaging and interacting with people with ID. While there are many programmatic and operational changes recommended in this document, the first steps can stem from simply asking people with ID in your community how your program or service could work better for them.