The dictionary defines access as:

Noun: 1. The means or opportunity to approach or enter a place
Noun: 2. The right or opportunity to use or benefit from something

Some people may have a set idea of what we mean when we talk about access in the context of Multiple Sclerosis. They may presume that access refers to access to medicines, or disabled access. Neither of these is wrong, but there is a wide range of barriers to access faced by people with MS around the world.

When we talk about equality of access for people with Multiple Sclerosis we mean access to a social, political and economic life. Equality of access doesn’t just mean physical access to buildings, but to access to the same tools, services and facilities that people who do not have MS enjoy.

Photo of a shoe and a cane on a pebble beach by mtsofan on Flickr

Photo by mtsofan on Flickr

Why access?

When we announced access as theme for World MS Day 2014 lots of people were really pleased. This is because access issues are something that people with MS have to deal with on a daily basis.
The barriers to access faced by people with MS vary depending on where they are and what their symptoms are. We would like to reflect this variety by sharing different people’s experiences of access barriers around the world. We hope this will help people understand the complex nature of MS and help unite the global MS movement.

Examples of Access Issues

We wrote some examples of different access issues that could be faced in  different parts of the world, by people with different symptoms to show the kinds of problems different people with MS face.

Facilities There’s only one MRI scanner in your country and it’s a 10 hour drive away
Treatment A treatment is available for your condition but it’s too expensive
Medicine The medicine you need isn’t available in your country, even though it is in other places
Social Life When you meet new people it’s hard to decide how to tell them about your MS
Family life You worry that your partner will leave you when your MS symptoms become less manageable
Jobs You want to work but your boss doesn’t understand MS or how to help you
Relationships Because of your MS you worry about finding a partner who will understand you
Public transport The buses in your area don’t have ramps or spaces for wheelchairs
Children You worry that your children will lose out on opportunities because they’re caring for you
Work Disability legislation in your country doesn’t include MS
Understanding Your children don’t understand why some days you can’t run around the park with them
Buildings Your have to go up a flight of stairs to see your local doctor and there’s no lift
Information You’ve been diagnosed with MS but you have no information about treatment or support in your own language
Specialist Doctors There’s a shortage of neurologists in your area, you have to wait 6 months to see one
Getting around There are days when you can’t walk without help, but your government doesn’t give walking aids away and you can’t afford to buy one
Education You want to go to college but you don’t think you can work while you study to support yourself

 

For World MS Day 2014 we will be highlighting real access issues faced by people with MS, as well as their friends, family and carers, all around the world.