Impact Feature Issue on Enhancing Quality and Coordination of Health Care for Persons with Chronic Illness and/or Disabilities

Applying Cultural Competence to Disability


Erin Simunds works at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Many individuals with disabilities contend that they represent a distinctive cultural group based on the shared experience of disability. Just as strategies can be developed by health care providers to ensure competence in addressing ethnic and linguistic differences, so strategies can be developed to enhance cultural competence in relation to disability. The following is an example of ways to start applying cultural competence to disability culture:




Hire interpreters

Hire bilingual interpreters knowledgeable about health care terminology

Hire staff trained in American Sign Language, familiar with technology-based communication, knowledgeable about health care terminology

Create a culturally-friendly atmosphere

Have signs in multiple languages, hire culturally-diverse staff, have cross-cultural and multi-lingual reading material in waiting areas

Configure service counters for wheel-chair approach at eye level; hire staff with disabilities; have disability publications, and large format and Braille reading material, in waiting areas