1. Winters, Jill PhD, RN
  2. Winters, Jack M. PhD

Article Content


The Centers for Disease Control estimated that during 1994-1995, 54 million Americans had one or more disability. Disparity of healthcare services available for persons with disabilities may reflect variability, extent, and nature of health services required, higher need for short- and long-term health services, healthcare reimbursement issues, and lack of accessible medical equipment. Although the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act stipulated that access to medical care and public accommodations be made for all, many medical devices available today fall short of this requirement.



The purpose of this study was to identify the prevalence and specific barriers to using various types of medical equipment by persons with disabilities.



An exploratory cross sectional survey design was employed. The target population was a diverse sample of individuals with a wide scope of disabilities. Inclusion criteria consisted of self-report of at least one disability, at least 18 years of age, able to understand English, and experience with medical devices. Data were collected during 2003-2004. Follow-up focus groups are planned for the summer of 2005.



A national consumer survey examining accessibility of medical equipment was completed during 2003-2004. More than 400 respondents completed the survey online, on paper, over the telephone, or in person. Exercise and rehabilitation equipment was identified as the third most difficult category of equipment to use. More than 55 percent of respondents with experience with exercise and rehabilitation equipment identified this category as at least "moderately difficult" to use. This was true across disability groups. Specific issues related to transferring, safety/stability, visual displays, and "correct fit." Focus groups will refine and target this knowledge.



Many barriers to accessibility and usability of exercise and rehabilitation equipment exist. Further development and research is indicated to make these devices accessible for all, irrespective of level of ability or disability.