Building Disability Equity in Healthcare


September 23, 2021


5 minutes


Thought Leadership


On August 5th, 2021 Aspire co-hosted a virtual panel event with Disability Lead on Building Disability Equity in Healthcare.

This live virtual panel discussion focused on critical issues around health and wellness for people with disabilities. The panel raised awareness, shared knowledge, and invited advocacy on the topic of quality of healthcare for people with disabilities.


photo of Andrés Gallegos

Andrés Gallegos
National Healthcare Attorney & Chair of the National Council on Disability
Andrés is a shareholder with Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd., in Chicago Illinois, where he has founded and directs the law firm’s national disability rights practice. The main focus of that practice is to improve access to healthcare and wellness programs for persons across all categories of disabilities. Andrés was named Chairman of the National Council on Disability by President Biden on January 20, 2021. Andrés is a person with a disability having sustained a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia in November 1996.

photo of LaShon Gurrola

LaShon Gurrola
Registered Nurse Care Manager at Rush University Medical Center
LaShon is a registered nurse working with vulnerable populations. She is knowledgeable on health equity because she sees the impact when health equity and access to care is lacking in vulnerable communities. LaShon advocates and teaches others how to advocate for themselves with their care team.

photo of Rahnee Patrick

Rahnee Patrick
Director, Division of Rehabilitation Services at IL Department of Human Services
Rahnee is leading equitable employment for people with disabilities, a key component of health equity. The need for access for people with disabilities has been a driver in her career. Rahnee holds a Master of Arts in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.


photo of Kristin Krok, Moderator

Kristin Krok
Director of Life Enrichment at Aspire
Kristin has been working with people with disabilities for over 25 years, and has experience in direct care, program management, and program development. She has overseen the development and expansion of health promotion programs at Aspire, while promoting wellness for individuals served.

Panel Questions & Answers from the Audience:

Panelist LaShon Gurrola was able to provide some insight and feedback on a few questions from our audience.

Question 1: What resources are available to increase education and awareness around health equity for people with disabilities?
Answer: I would suggest those interested in this question look at resources available at information at these sites: Office of Minority Health, NIHCM Foundation and Illinois Health Equity Task Force.

Question 2: Do you think we’ve seen an increase in health equity in the last two years (over the course of the pandemic) or has it declined?
Answer: I don’t think it’s declined; I actually think focus and attention concerning the Pandemic and attention to vulnerable populations have increased some. By vulnerable populations I’m including elderly, and other disadvantaged groups that have historically been unacknowledged such as persons with disabilities and minority groups.

Question 3: How does technology in healthcare help or hinder the experience of an individual with a disability? How can healthcare do better?
Answer: Definitely health care has turned to technology more so this past year, with tele health, video visits, and mobile devices being used to communicate health information. Although this is an advancement to most- in the disability community it can be another barrier to care, especially for those with vision and hearing loss. Health care can do better to have insight and forethought to anticipate the needs to these patients- having people with those challenges help design, give input at the time software and programs are being designed would be ideal.

Question 4: How do we ensure people of color’s voices are included in fighting for equity for the disability community?
Answer: We need those individuals to step up and help lend their voice. In this community (the disability community) we need active participation. We can’t always depend on others to speak on our behalf or advocate for us- as we know best what we need. Embracing all of our intersections with most assuredly lend voices that are from people of color.

Question 5: What can healthcare systems do to be more inclusive of people with invisible disabilities?
Answer: Health systems can stop prejudging and assuming all people with a disability will just have a physical disability impairing mobility or vision/hearing. The way a person defines their disability should be accepted for what it is. This is more of an educational opportunity than anything. I think encouraging people, whether patrons of service or employees, to disclose their disability is helpful if they are willing to do so. This allows accurate data and information on disabled individuals and what the needs are.

Additional Resources: Aspire’s Podcast, Amplify Inclusion 

Additional Resources: Accessible Healthcare Infographic from Andrés Gallegos







































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