In Australia, doctors and medical students with physical impairments face an uphill challenge with regards to being admitted to medical school and then employed in the health system. Pervasive paternalism about what people with disabilities can and can’t do, should and shouldn’t do poses a major barrier to entry to medical schools and subsequent employment. This is often based on false presumptions about what people with disabilities can actually achieve – there are many successful, safe doctors with various types of impairments. With some goodwill and imagination, a person’s physical limitations can often be overcome with reasonable adjustments to the environment or use of technological aids.
The field of medicine encompasses a wide range of specialties, each requiring different skill sets and physical requirements. Like every other doctor wishing to specialise, a person with a disability will seek a specialty that best suits their capabilities.
With one in five Australians identifying themselves as having some sort of physical impairment, we argue that society is better served by having doctors with real-life experience of being patients themselves. This experience can produce doctors with greater compassion for their patients.
Our organisation brings together the people that have beaten the odds and have gone on to become successful doctors as well as those aspiring to follow in their footsteps. With the aim of reducing physical, attitudinal and social barriers, Doctors with Disabilities – Australia (DWDA) provides advocacy and peer support on matters associated with medical study and doctors with a disability.
Our objectives are to:
- Create a social space where individuals with similar experiences can come together and support each other.
- To eliminate physical and attitudinal barriers, social stigma and disability bias among the medical profession.
- Provide a national advocacy and awareness making body for medical students and doctors with disability in Australia.
- To create resources and give professional advice on improving medical education and access to clinical workplace for medical students and doctors with disability.