Visiting the doctor is not always our favorite thing to do. Aside from the usual reasons (being poked and prodded, wearing ridiculous gowns, being weighed), for many people who have disabilities there are other issues.
Too often the doorway to a doctor’s office is not clearly marked. There might not be Braille indicating the suite number and the physicians’ names. One of my doctors has a glass door to his suite. The lettering on the door is white and that spells trouble for people with low vision.
There aren’t many spaces to park one’s wheelchair in a doctor’s waiting room. There are chairs, but no empty places to put a wheelchair.
Have you ever visited an office in which the receptionist sits behind a glass window? Doesn’t that make you feel a little like a potential felon? It certainly makes it hard to communicate and for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing that is a big problem.
Then there is the moment when, after waiting forever, a disembodied voice calls your name and you are allowed to go back to wait some more. That’s another problem: for people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing that disembodied voice cannot be heard.
I’ve asked the staff at my doctor’s office to come into the waiting room to find me when it’s my turn. It shouldn’t be hard, I tell them, I’ll be the one with a large service dog. Still, they never seem to remember even after I attached this request to my chart.
Let me contrast this with a recent restaurant visit and my last trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
At a casual pub, we put our food order in and were given a pager. We sat down and chatted while waiting for the pager to vibrate letting us know our food was ready to be picked up. No hearing was required. If I were blind or had low vision it would work just as well since the pager was tactile.
At the DMV I put my name in at the front desk, received a number and sat down among 50 other people, wondering how I would hear my number called. Then I saw the digital screen with numbers and more numbers. Using a system often seen in restaurants to signal servers that their order is ready in the kitchen, the DMV was able to display the individual’s number alongside the number of the window where they would be served.
This method is great for people who would not be able to hear a voice yelled across the room or a voice through a public address system.
So why can’t the doctor’s office be more like a restaurant or the DMV?