Of course, we’re all aware that issues of discrimination are still all over the place in our society, despite so many efforts to seek them out and stop them. But most of us probably haven’t even thought of some of the odd places this discrimination is hiding—like in mammography machines.
The majority of mammography machines are not easily accessible to women with disabilities and mobility problems, as they require patients to stand up and hold themselves steady for several minutes.
Older women, who are generally less mobile than their younger counterparts, are also far more likely than younger women to develop cancer, making it more important that they receive regular screenings. But women with disabilities or mobility problems are actually one-third less likely to receive mammograms and other cancer screenings, due at least in part to a lack of access. About 80 percent of women who do not receive their regular annual mammograms also have impaired mobility.
Wheelchair-accessible mammography machines do exist. These special machines have an adjustable height feature and removable footplates and armrests, so there’s plenty of room for a wheelchair or chair to be maneuvered close to the machine. Some are also equipped with handles to hold onto for women who struggle to stand and steady themselves. However, not nearly enough clinics have these machines.
It’s so important that we make mammograms accessible to all women who need them. We cannot force anyone to use them, but those who want to should be fully able to do so. In Montana, every clinic that offers mammograms has at least one machine that is accessible to women with disabilities and mobility issues. It’s time for the rest of the country to follow their example.
There are plenty of other things clinics could be doing to make mammograms more accessible for limited-mobility patients as well. Changing areas should have chairs and should be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Clinic entrances should be wheelchair accessible, and longer appointment times should be offered for limited-mobility patients.
Every clinic around the country that offers mammograms should be required to provide a fully accessible mammography machine and other reasonable accommodations for patients with disabilities and limited mobility.
Having a disability or a mobility problem doesn’t make you less likely to get breast cancer, so it shouldn’t make you less likely to get screened either. It’s time to stop the discrimination against women who can’t stand or walk easily.
You can help these women get the mammograms they need and deserve. Click the link below to sign the petition asking the Department of Health and Human Services to require all clinics that offer mammograms to provide accommodations for women with disabilities and limited mobility.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?