Stricter standards for accessibility in healthcare wanted

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The National Council on Disability is urging the U.S. Department of Justice and Health to adopt the Access Board’s standards for medical and diagnostic devices. (Thinkstock)

Doctors’ offices are supposed to be accessible to people with disabilities, but rules that mean that are not enforced. Now an independent federal agency is calling for change.

The National Council on Disability is demanding that the US Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services enact new regulations that set precise parameters for accessible medical and diagnostic devices.

The standards are already in place. They were published in 2017 by the Access Board, a federal agency for accessibility for people with disabilities, in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration. But because the so-called standards for accessible medical diagnostic equipment were not officially passed by the federal enforcement agencies, they are missing teeth.

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The recommendations of the National Council on Disability, designed to advise the President and Congress on disability issues, are contained in a 75-page report that outlines the barriers that still exist when people with disabilities seek healthcare.

Despite the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Affordable Care Act for unrestricted and equal access to health services and facilities, the report finds that essentials such as exam tables, scales, examination chairs, and imaging equipment “ are generally inaccessible to people with physical disabilities ”. In addition, healthcare facilities generally lack trained personnel to help people with disabilities switch safely to such devices.

Even when accessible equipment is available, the council said medical staff often do not know how to use it. As a result, people with disabilities say health professionals often skip portions of exams or even refuse treatment, the report said.

Currently, people with disabilities can file complaints with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health about inaccessible medical and diagnostic equipment, but the National Disability Council said that resource was insufficient.

“Thirteen percent of American adults have some form of disability that affects their functional mobility diagnostic equipment,” said Andrés Gallegos, chairman of the National Disability Council. “As someone who has experienced this firsthand, I can confirm that equal health opportunities for people with mobility disabilities remain elusive if the MDE standards are not formally adopted by federal authorities.”

The Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services did not respond to requests for comment as to whether they were considering regulations to adopt the Access Board standards.

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