Accessibility of primary care physician practice sites in South Carolina for people with disabilities

Catherine Leigh Graham, M.E.B.M.E, Joshua R. Mann, M.D., M.P.H

Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Interagency Office on Disability and Health, University of South Carolina, School of Medicine, Columbia, SC 29203, USA

Disability and Health JournalOctober 2008Volume 1, Issue 4, Pages 209–214



Quality and level of health care provided for people with disabilities at primary care physician’s offices can be drastically impacted by the level of accessibility of the practice. The study goal was to assess the accessibility of primary care physician practices sites in South Carolina for people with mobility or sensory disabilities.


Primary care offices were contacted through two different networks, and 68 agreed to a modified accessibility assessment. Prior to each visit, practice characteristics were gathered. The rehabilitation engineer assessed the sites for 93 specific accessibility items using a tape measure, inclinometer, and weight scale. The survey items were taken from the American with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG).


The level of accessibility varied substantially; the average practice was deemed adequate on 70% of the items assessed. The strongest predictor of overall accessibility was the year of construction or most recent renovation. Hospital-owned buildings were significantly more accessible (P = 0.04) when controlling for year built. Key aspects of accessibility that were often lacking included car- and van-accessible parking, lever door handles, clear floor space and grab bars in the restroom, TTY telephone or a hearing aid–compatible telephone, wheelchair accessible scale, and an adjustable-height examination table.


The accessibility of primary care practice sites in South Carolina is suboptimal. Research is needed to identify effective approaches for encouraging primary care practices to make their practices fully accessible.