Ableism, human rights, and the COVID-19 pandemic: Healthcare-related barriers experienced by Deaf people in Aotearoa New Zealand
journal contributionposted on 2023-01-09, 01:29 authored by Michael Roguski, Tara Officer, Solmaz Nazari Orakani, Gretchen Good, Daniela Händler-Schuster, Karen McBride-HenryKaren McBride-Henry
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected global healthcare access and exacerbated pre-pandemic structural barriers. Literature on disabled people’s experiences accessing healthcare is limited, with even less framing healthcare access as a human rights issue. This study documents and critically analyses Deaf people’s healthcare access experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eleven self-identified Deaf individuals participated in semi-structured videoconferencing interviews. Discourse analysis was applied to participant narratives with discourses juxtaposed against a human rights analysis. Barriers influencing healthcare access included: (1) the inability of healthcare providers to communicate appropriately, including a rigid adherence to face mask use; (2) cultural insensitivity and limited awareness of Deaf people’s unique needs; and (3) the impact of ableist assumptions and healthcare delaying care. Barriers to healthcare access represent consecutive breaches of rights guaranteed under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Such breaches delay appropriate healthcare access and risk creating future compounding effects. Action is required to address identified breaches: (1) The CRPD should also underpin all health policy and practice development, inclusive of pandemic and disaster management responsiveness. (2) Health professionals and support staff should be trained, and demonstrate competency, in Deaf cultural awareness and sensitivity.