Sexual and Reproductive Health Disparities Experienced by People with Disabilities

Myth versus Reality

  • Margaret A. Nosek Baylor College of Medicine
  • Darrell K. Simmons University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center


Disability has yet to achieve its proper place in the discussion of health disparities. Several major Federal initiatives to remove health disparities have only addressed disability as a consequence of poverty, low education levels, lack of access to health care, and other disparity factors, but fail to acknowledge people with disabilities as a health disparity population. Whereas policymakers and health disparities researchers regard disability as an indicator of reduced quality of life, rehabilitation researchers focus on maximizing health and quality of life in the context of disability. This article discusses the characteristics and possible causes of health disparities experienced by people with disabilities, illustrated with examples from sexuality and reproductive health. The authors offer six pathways for eliminating the health disparities faced by people with disabilities: 1) Include information about wellness in the context of disability in the education of physicians and other health care providers, 2) Offer empowerment opportunities to people with disabilities, 3) Promote compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, 4) Remove barriers to participation by people with disabilities in health research and education, 5) Acknowledge people with disabilities as a health disparities population and include their issues in national health care policy, and 6) Encourage media coverage of health issues for people with disabilities and the portrayal of successful, healthy people with disabilities in publicity related to all health topics.
How to Cite
Nosek, M. A., & Simmons, D. K. (2007). Sexual and Reproductive Health Disparities Experienced by People with Disabilities: Myth versus Reality. Californian Journal of Health Promotion, 5(SI), 68-81.