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For many individuals with disabilities, finding quality health care that is both affordable and accessible can be challenging. However, AWS mandate that all health care facilities be accessible. This includes offices that specialize in mental, vision, dental or alternative care.
Accessibility applies to both physical and communication access. People with disabilities should be able to communicate with and health care facilities as conveniently as people without disabilities.
Health care facilities should address such physical access issues as:
If a facility's architectural barriers prevent physical access, health care providers should remove the barriers.
Areas where architectural barriers may be problematic include:
In order to meet the guidelines set forth by the ADA, parking lots should include accessible parking spaces, stairs should have alternative ramps or elevators, doorways should be wide enough for wheelchair access and waiting room or lobbies should be spacious enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
Providers should also ensure that people with disabilities have access to scales, exam tables or chairs without charging patients for the provision of the required services or devices.
Communication access applies to auxiliary aids, services and other types of program access. Health care providers must ensure that they can effectively communicate with people who have a range of disabilities, including people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech, vision or learning disability. Providers may use a variety of auxiliary aids and services to help facilitate communication.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 to provide individuals with disabilities physical and communications access. Qualifications for benefits under the ADA are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
The four key sections of the ADA include:
Under Title III of the ADA, heath care providers are required to remove barriers, make reasonable modifications and provide auxiliary aids and services if necessary.
People with disabilities should have access to the same goods and services as those provided to people without disabilities. If this is not possible, health care providers should modify their policies or procedures.
For example, heath care providers should make an exception to a "no pets allowed" policy for patients with services animals. Their staff members should also provide assistance to individuals who need help opening or closing doors, maneuvering through the building or accessing materials that may be out of reach.
However, if reasonable modifications are unable to be made and no doctors within the patient's plan can serve the patients needs, referrals should be provided to doctors outside of the plan.
The Access Board is an independent federal agency that issues guidelines to ensure that buildings, facilities and vehicles covered by the law are accessible to individuals with disabilities with regard to architecture, design, transportation and communication. Regulations issued by the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation must be consistent with the Access Board's guidelines.
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F St., NW., Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-111
9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. EST
The USDOJ provides a checklist for readily achievable barrier removal that is an easy-to-use survey tool to help users identify barriers in their facilities. The completed checklists and work sheets can help an organization demonstrate that they are making a good-faith effort to comply with the requirements of the ADA. The Web site also addresses common questions about readily achievable barrier removal and provides practical information on how to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
CUD and NCODH provide the "Removing Barriers to Health Care: A Guide for Health Professionals" booklet, which addresses guidelines and recommendations to help heath care professionals ensure equal use of facilities and services by all patients. This guide gives health care providers a better understanding of how to improve both the physical environment and personal interactions with patients who have disabilities.
These two organizations created the ADA Guide for Small Business to assist small business with the American with Disabilities Act. The guide is an informal overview of basic ADA requirements small businesses, which concerns the public use of goods and services.
The Equal Right Center’s (ERC) report: You can download the full report at www.equalrightscenter.org/illprepared. An accessible version is also available at www.equalrightscenter.org/illpreparedaccess.