I deal in hope : Carolyn R Scheidies

Blog Bio: Hub title: Finally, a doctor helps me, a maskless patient

Has fear erased the need to accommodate those with disabilities?

Those who know me, know I am put together with artificial joints, metal, plastic, glue, and screws. I have lots of limitations. My throat is compromised. I can only touch my face with one hand. I also have any number of allergies and sensitivities to medications and food. In this era of masks, I am part of a subset of persons who cannot safely wear a mask. It means I pretty much stay home.

A few weeks ago, I needed to see my regular doctor at Family Practice and have my yearly labs. I called my doctor’s nurse and, talked to her about my problem. My doctor said to come in. When Keith took me in, a couple of ladies in the entry let us know we needed masks (Keith already had one on) and to use the hand sanitizer. I said I could not do either, but that I’d already called. They checked and let me go in. Not one person stopped me or even glared at me during my appointment. They made a reasonable accommodation.

More recently, I tried to set up an appointment with a podiatrist at Platte Valley Medical Group. However, when I let them know I couldn’t wear a mask, you would have thought they’d never heard of such a thing. After 15 or more minutes, I was passed onto another person who asked why? I explained. I was treated with politeness, but nothing I said mattered. No mask. No seeing a doctor.The next day someone else called and, nicely but firmly, grilled me as to why. It didn’t matter. They made absolutely no accommodations for people who like me can’t wear a mask but wish to see a doctor.

Yet, not being able to wear a mask is very real. According to this Disability Issues Brief Developed by the Southeast ADA Center and Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University entitled The ADA and Face Mask Policies, “The CDC states that a person who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face mask without assistance should not wear a face mask or cloth face covering.” Other reasons include claustrophobia, PSTD, and severe anxiety.

What about businesses? According to the above article: If a person with a disability is not able to wear a face mask, state and local government agencies and private businesses must consider reasonable modifications to a face mask policy so that the person with the disability can participate in, or benefit from, the programs offered or goods and services that are provided.

Platte Valley Medical Group offered no accommodations, which means they are not ADA compliant. This medical establishment made no way for me to see the doctor. No mask. No medical care. No accommodations for those who require medical treatment.

I tried another clinic in Kearney with a podiatrist. The woman at the front desk who answered my call took my information, but before we settled on an appointment I explained I couldn’t wear a mask. She reiterated what has become the party line. “Everyone has to wear a mask.” However, she offered to have the manager call, which she did. She offered a semi-reasonable alternative—to stay in the car until called. I accepted and made the appointment. Since the appointment was in early March, I hoped for a day that wasn’t freezing cold.

Still, though I still feel like a second-class citizen again, I am thankful this medical establishment was willing to follow ADA guidelines to make reasonable accommodations. Let’s hope others, medical establishments as well as stores and other businesses, start doing the same.

© 2021 Carolyn R Scheidies

Published 3/15/2021 Kearney Hub Column

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