Perspectives of patients with disabilities on the accessibility of medical equipment: Examination tables, imaging equipment, medical chairs, and weight scales

Molly Follette Story, Ph.D., Erin Schwier, O.T.D., O.T.R., June Isaacson Kailes, M.S.W.

Disability and Health Journal, October 2009 Volume 2, Issue 4, Pages 169–179.e1



In a prior survey, patients with disabilities reported difficulty using many common types of medical equipment.


The purpose of this study was to conduct focus groups to explore in greater detail the most common difficulties mentioned by survey participants in order to identify critical issues related to accessibility and usability and to inform subsequent research.


Participants of eight focus groups discussed medical equipment accessibility and safety issues experienced when using or attempting to access four specific categories of medical devices: examination tables, imaging equipment, medical chairs, and weight scales. Content of the transcript of each focus group was categorized according to five major themes: safety issues, equipment issues, health care provider issues, patient issues, and environmental issues. The results were then aggregated.


The focus group participants reported that characteristics of the equipment’s contact surfaces could cause difficulty and discomfort. Participants commented on lack of physical support for patients with disabilities to transfer their bodies onto and off the equipment and lack of support to achieve and maintain body positions while on the equipment. Wheelchair scales were reported as rarely available, and scales without voice output were inaccessible to blind individuals. Health care provider issues and patient issues are discussed in relation to the accessibility and safety of the equipment.


Some types of medical devices and technologies present substantial barriers for some medical patients with disabilities, which may negatively affect their access to health care. Recommendations for improved designs are provided to enhance medical equipment accessibility and safety.