Publications / Listening to Black Californians with Disabilities

Listening to Black Californians with Disabilities

Approximately one in five Listening to Black Californians survey respondents (19%) reports having a “disability of any type (such as mobility, cognitive, visual, or sensory).” Reports of disabilities among Black Californians rise markedly after age 55, with more than half of respondents (54%) age 55 or older reporting disabilities.

Two in five Black Californians with disabilities (42%) have incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level, compared to one in four (26%) of those without a disability. Black Californians with disabilities are more likely than those without them to be covered by Medi-Cal (30% vs. 20%) or Medicare (32% vs. 14%) and less likely to be covered by private insurance (34% vs. 64%).

Black Californians with disabilities experience high rates of both serious physical health conditions (65%) and mental health conditions (48%).

The Takeaway

Black Californians with disabilities regularly receive health care and engage in health-seeking behaviors. Yet they often face discrimination or poor treatment when seeking care. Policymakers and health care providers should recognize and address the many challenges that Black Californians with disabilities face when seeking and receiving health care.

Key Findings

Black Californians with Disabilities Frequently Interact with the Health System While Tending to Their Health

Black Californians with disabilities are frequent users of the health care system. In the year before the survey, 94% of Black Californians with disabilities reported at least one visit with a doctor or health care provider, and 52% reported having five or more visits. More Black Californians with disabilities than without them report receiving a routine checkup (80% vs. 74%), routine or preventive screenings (81% vs. 71%), and care or treatment for a chronic illness (57% vs. 24%).

Like other groups of Black Californians highlighted in this series, those with disabilities engage in a variety of activities to manage and improve their physical and mental health.

Black Californians with Disabilities Routinely Experience Negative Treatment from the Health Care System

Black Californians with disabilities are significantly more likely than those without disabilities to report negative health care experiences, including symptoms not being taken seriously and a provider not believing them or suggesting they were to blame for a health problem.

Black Californians with Disabilities Often Avoid Care or Adopt Protective Behaviors When Seeking Care

Nearly two in five Black Californians with disabilities (38%) report avoiding care because they felt they would not be treated fairly or with respect, which is significantly more than those without disabilities (23%).

Respondents with disabilities also deploy various strategies, such as signaling their education to providers, to increase their chances of being treated with respect when seeking health care.

Key Areas for Action

Disability experts recommend the following strategies to address the inequities that Black Californians with disabilities face:

  • Enforce compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Include people with disabilities in state data collection efforts.
  • Train health care providers on holistic care for people with disabilities.
  • Recognize disability as a part of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

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