Addiction can be a harrowing experience for anyone. For those with a sensory disability, such as a deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired individual, this experience can be even more daunting, as they’re faced with not only overcoming an addiction, but attempting to find a treatment program that recognizes, respects, and caters to their unique needs and challenges, in a world that largely revolves around the experiences and perception of sound and sight.
Though research is mixed on the subject—with some finding individuals with disabilities experiencing higher rates of substance use disorders and others documenting lower instances—what is certain, is that every person, regardless of a disability, must have access to effective, evidenced-based treatment, in order to obtain a drug-free life.
Overall, for disabled and non-disabled individuals alike, for many, their adult SUDs may be tied to experiences or elements within their childhood. However, for these populations there are certain facets of their childhood experience that are unique, or inexplicably tied to their disorders. As children, deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired individuals often struggle to learn the full spectrum of information relating to the seriousness and effects of substance abuse, when these subjects are taught in school or other groups. Thus, as adults, they are not as well-versed in the risks, dangers, information, and coping skills that can be so pertinent when faced with substance use and abuse as a youth, teenager, or adult.
Secondly, these children may lack an ample and engaging support system at home, setting a poor foundation that may make them even more susceptible to substance abuse down the road. In example, the Institute for Research, Education & Training in Addiction (IRETA) writes that “Deaf children whose families do not learn to communicate with them are four times more likely to suffer from mental health disorders than those whose families communicate well with them.” We can infer then, that blind or vision impaired individuals may face the same challenges and effects. Research is definitive on the fact that mental health disorders put a person at an increased risk of developing a co-occurring substance use disorder.
A 2011 University of Michigan publication reports that while nine percent of children without disabilities experience neglect, children with disabilities experience a rate over three times that, at 31 percent. They continue to say that (with ‘d’ representing deaf and ‘hh’ hard of hearing) “10% of hearing boys and 25% of hearing girls experience sexual abuse, vs. 54% of boys who are d/hh and 50% of girls who are d/hh report sexual abuse.”
Though foreign, we can still extract a beneficial perspective from a Norwegian study which documented that visually impaired children experienced the most severe form of sexual abuse in instances three times that of sighted children.
The longer substance abuse or addiction remains unchecked, the more severe the damage may become.
When on site at a treatment facility, a blind individual may struggle with ease of access to the facility’s various buildings. Beyond this, their treatment experience may be drastically inhibited as they may not be able to read any accompanying literature, including that which is offered in self-help groups, homework assignments, or as an accompaniment to therapy and/or counseling. Many treatment programs may not offer these materials in a braille, audio format, or large print versions of the text. In addition, any films or visual aids that are integrated into various sessions will likely not be accessed by these individuals. Because of the possibility of these issues, we urge you to thoroughly research all your options, while considering a program that is attentive and prepared to meet your needs.
Understanding The Influence Of The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
This title ensures that any state or local governmental programs or services, including substance abuse treatment programs, strictly adhere to policies and practicum that are nondiscriminatory in nature and provide full accessibility to programs, in their full capacity, to those with disabilities.
Title III requirements outline those which apply to “privately owned and operated programs that offer goods and services to the general public,” also including substance abuse treatment programs. Again, individuals with disabilities cannot be discriminated against, and as per these guidelines, they must not be excluded from treatment or required to participate in a program other than what is offered to the general public. To do so, the ADA requires that “Reasonable modifications must be made to policies, practices, and procedures so that people with disabilities may participate.” Specifically, this dictates that “auxiliary aids and services” must be made available to ensure that disabled individuals are able to communicate their needs thoroughly and effectually, while receiving the appropriate information and services in the same manner.
In regards to substance abuse treatment, The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has outlined the following factors that Title III providers must adhere to. These include the following guidelines listed below.
Service must be rendered in a manner that allow all disabled individuals to obtain services in a nonsegregated environment. The only exception would be if an equal opportunity could not exist without alternative or separate accommodations.
Facilities must remove any criteria or guidelines for eligibility that prevent a disabled person from equally taking part in or benefiting from the treatment modalities, events, and resources offered by the treatment program.
A program must implement the necessary changes to the program’s policies and structural and procedural components that may prevent these individuals from obtaining equal access, “unless a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program would result.”
Provide access to auxiliary aids that assist these individuals in overcoming communication barriers, “unless an undue burden or fundamental alteration would result.”
The facility must continuously ensure that its components are accessible.
Eliminate both “architectural and structural communication barriers” in facilities that are already built, if these changes are fairly obtainable.
If facility is unable to do so, they must grant individuals a different means of obtaining benefit from the program.
If the program provides transportation to client, they must have transportation that is accessible and equal for those with disabilities.
If a new portion of the facility is being built or renovated, these portions must be created and constructed in a way that adheres to the Americans With Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines.
It is important to understand these guidelines, so that you may be aware of your rights as you’re seeking treatment. Even with these guidelines, many programs are not able to employ proper care and support for those with sensory disabilities, due largely to the often financial burden these changes may make to their program or facility.
Check out this quick guide provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to learn more about your rights under the The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
When an individual has a necessity for drug or alcohol rehabilitation, they may most commonly choose either an outpatient or inpatient drug rehab. Though outpatient programs offer greater flexibility and access to therapy and counseling, they do not provide the intensive and individualized care that many addictions warrant.
Inpatient drug rehab allows an individual to reside on site, granting them continued access to a supportive and engaging staff during this time of need. One of the greatest benefits of inpatient drug rehab is the fact that a person is able to step away from their life, thus cutting off access to any temptation or cues that may induce cravings, so that they may focus more fully on their recovery. This can be a priceless benefit to a person with a sensory disability who may have suffered at the hand of, and even self-medicated, a sense of loneliness or isolation.
If you, or a someone close to you, is struggling with deafness, hearing loss, blindness, or impaired vision, or any other disability, and is faced with an addiction, please reach out to our compassionate and expert staff at RehabCenter.net. We can help you to further explore your best options, from conventional, privately ran programs, to those that are tailored to fit the exact needs of your disability. Contact us today.