Leadership Blog

Supporting Students & Colleagues with Disabilities

Looking back on this year, I am truly proud of our profession’s progress toward becoming more equitable and inclusive. While it is important to celebrate our accomplishments, it is imperative to continue our efforts to identify areas for improvement.

One pressing example in PA education is the need to include disability in our justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) conversations. In our efforts to create a PA education landscape that allows people to thrive, we consider how social identities (such as race, gender, sexuality, or religion) affect our experience as students and educators. At least one in five adults have significant physical, cognitive, mental health, or learning impairments, yet disability is often left out of JEDI initiatives or tacked on as an afterthought.

Many educators want to improve accessibility but aren’t sure how to get started. A logical first step is to examine our technical standards. Are they the right technical standards? If they’re not, we must make modifications to honor someone’s disability and ensure they have the support they need. We can also think about how we build our curriculum and how we talk about people who have various disabilities. Are we only acknowledging visible disabilities while we are ignoring or diminishing invisible disabilities? Are we showing the heterogeneity of certain disabilities?

Creating a more inclusive and supportive environment in which to work and learn will benefit us all. Ultimately, it will better enable us to produce well-rounded, compassionate PAs who are equipped with the requisite medical knowledge and emotional intelligence to meet their patients’ needs.