Community Engagement and Accessibility in Rural Healthcare: A MultiCase Study

Michael Richardson, Northwest ADA Center, provided an overview of three community engagement initiatives his center conducted to address barriers to accessible healthcare in rural communities.  Their approach involved gathering a group of diverse, committed community representatives to identify health care accessibility problems and possible solutions.  Using town hall meetings, they identified transportation, facility access, and communication as major problems needing work. They collected evidence of these problems (such as photos) and met with key community members—such as city officials and medical facility administrators—to present evidence and come up with remedies that all parties could agree on. For example, inaccessible transportation in one case was addressed by providing funding for an accessible van; in another it was training taxi-drivers in ADA laws and attitudes. After 6 months, results were evaluated through questionnaires, focus groups, and observation. While the three communities varied, in all cases the success was influenced by continuous communication and coordinated efforts between all parties. Also critical was having a “backbone” support organization, such as an Independent Living Center, to provide structure and support. In one to two years the communities will be re-evaluated to see if the groups are continuing to work together and successfully improving health care accessibility.  

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