Proposed Rule Would Significantly Advance Disability Protections in Healthcare and Human Services

By admin

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
ORG

(

HHS
ORG

) has issued a new proposed rule that would provide substantial updates to

Section 504
LAW

of

the Rehabilitation Act
LAW

that would improve the accessibility of health and human services for people who are disabled.


50 years
DATE

after the law was enacted, the new rule – “

Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance
WORK_OF_ART

” – seeks to advance the goal of

the Rehabilitation Act
LAW

of

1973
DATE

to include medical equipment and websites and to further eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities in any program or activity receiving

HHS
ORG

funding. They have proposed a rule to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and update the original rule (originally from

1977
DATE

).

The mission of

HHS
ORG

is to enhance the health and well-being of all

Americans
NORP

by providing effective health and human services and by fostering sound, sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services. In a press release,

HHS Office for Civil Rights
ORG

(OCR) Director

Melanie Fontes Rainer
PERSON

says the proposed rule is “long overdue, and a major step forward in the fight to ensure that people with disabilities are not excluded from or discriminated against in health care and social services across

the United States
GPE

.”


The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
WORK_OF_ART

(

NPRM
ORG

) clarifies the application of

Section 504
LAW

as it relates to medical treatment decisions, web, mobile, and kiosk accessibility, medical equipment accessibility standards, funding requirements for child welfare programs, medical decision assessments that devalue individuals with disabilities, and provides services in integrated settings to accommodate people with disabilities.


Administration for Community Living
ORG

leader

Alison Barkoff
PERSON

says the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the discrimination that people with disabilities continue to face, “from denial of medical treatment due to ableism, to inaccessible medical equipment and websites, to having no choice but to receive services in institutional settings.”


Vispero
ORG

Vice President

Matt Ater
PERSON

recently spoke to

Healthcare IT Today
ORG

about the ongoing fight among disability advocates to make accessible websites, mobile apps, self-service kiosks, and medical devices, citing these proposed changes as a landmark for progressing the accessibility of healthcare facilities and devices.


Ater
PERSON

says he hopes that digital accessibility for people with disabilities in the healthcare space becomes as common as wheelchair ramps are now. “Every person with a disability should be able to enter and navigate a healthcare facility, fill out forms, read the results of a blood pressure device, and follow instructional videos without the need for a helper. Making these items more accessible often benefits all patients, regardless of disability.”


Section 504
LAW

prohibits discrimination against disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance or are conducted by a

Federal
ORG

agency. This

NPRM
ORG

would provide consistency with

the Americans with Disabilities Act
ORG

,

the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act
ORG

, amendments to

the Rehabilitation Act
LAW

, and more.

From a technology standpoint, the proposed rule would expand the current rule to include digital, kiosk, and medical equipment accessibility and hopefully lead to meaningful requirements that drive change.