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

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.

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