Examining a Person
with a Mobility Impairment

Individuals with mobility impairments often find it difficult or impossible to use certain standard equipment found in medical and health care facilities. For example, people who are not ambulatory cannot use standard-height examining tables.

Therefore, health care providers cannot conduct certain examinations that require patients to lie prone or supine unless the individual is lifted onto the table. Such measures can be unsafe, embarrassing, and undignified for many patients. Although people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices are most often affected by this particular barrier to treatment, older patients and others who are semi-ambulatory also can experience difficulty.

An adjustable-height examining table is an ideal solution if it is readily available or easy to obtain. Such tables can be lowered to the height of a wheelchair seat, thus enabling some patients who use wheelchairs to move independently or with minimum assistance from their wheelchairs to the table and back again. The adjustable feature also allows medical or health care personnel to elevate the table to a comfortable height to conduct an examination.

If a table is not readily available, facilities must obtain, if feasible, an inexpensive, padded table the height of a wheelchair seat for use by patients who cannot use the conventional tables. This type of low table can also be used for some examinations of and consultations with patients who do not have disabilities. A group of physicians could purchase such a table and make arrangements to share its use.

If neither of these options is readily achievable, then medical and health care facilities must provide assistance to help patients onto the high tables, including lifting them if necessary. Such measure must be undertaken in safe manner to avoid injury to both the health care personnel and the patient and to preserve the dignity of the patient as much as possible.

Similarly, health care facilities must provide such assistance to patients with mobility impairments who are having radiology exams or other tests conducted on surfaces that cannot be adjusted for height or that are inaccessible in some other way.

In all of these situations, medical and health care personnel should follow the instructions and preferences of the patient with regard to lifting or providing other assistance.

Modifications to the manner in which certain examinations are conducted are also required. For example, some X-ray equipment used to take mammograms is built so the patient must stand to have the X-ray taken. Other mammogram equipment requires the patient to sit on a wheeled stool with a swivel seat. In both situations, a woman with a disability that prevents her from standing or sitting safely on such a stool would not be able to undergo the X-ray examination.

Replacing the stool with a stable chair or allowing the person to undergo the examination from her wheelchair are appropriate methods of providing access. Medical and health care facilities must provide assistance to undress and dress as needed or requested by patients with disabilities unless doing so fundamentally alters the services provided.

If they have a blanket policy prohibiting individuals other than patients in examination or treatment facilities, medical and health care facilities must modify the policy to allow a family member, friend, or personal care assistant to accompany a person when necessary during the examination or treatment.


City of Las Cruces ADA Requirements for Businesses, Medical Offices. Retrieved August 2004 from http://www.las-cruces.org/HR/ada/ada_business/medical_offices.shtm

For more information about examining patients with Mobility Impairments:

General article on accessing the medical system for persons with disabilities: http://www.metrokc.gov/dias/ocre/medical.htm