ADA access: New guide offers pointers to docs, hospitals

If you don't have accessible medical equipment, can you just tell a patient you can't treat him or her?

According to a new guide from the civil rights divisions of the departments of Justice and Health & Human Services, the answer is generally "no." You cannot deny service to a patient you would otherwise serve because he or she has a disability. Your facility is expected to provide an accessible exam table, an accessible stretcher or gurney, or a patient lift. Another option: Have enough trained staff on hand to help transfer the patient.

People with disabilities are less likely to get routine preventive medical care than people without disabilities. To ensure your facility, exam rooms and medical equipment are compliant with a federal civil rights law, check out this new guide, Access to Medical Care for Persons with Mobility Disabilities. It offers an overview of general ADA requirements, commonly asked questions and illustrated examples of accessible facilities, exam rooms and medical equipment. It was issued by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights.

The 19-page document will help medical providers comply with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. The statutes require medical care providers to make their services accessible.

Be sure to check out page 7, which shows the features of an accessible exam room, and page 12 for a picture of what an assisted transfer using a portable floor lift might look like.

To learn more:
- see the new guide, Access to Medical Care for Persons with Mobility Disabilities
- read the HHS press release