Implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act in a Health Care Setting

Joe Zesski May 26, 2020

Equal access to health care for individuals with disabilities is an ongoing challenge. The Northeast ADA will soon be offering a webinar based in part on this topic.

People with disabilities lag behind individuals without disabilities in accessing and being served by health care providers. In a National Council on Disability (NCD) 2009 study, The Current State of Health Care for People with Disabilities, the NCD cited an assortment of barriers to quality care for people with disabilities. Some were related to effective communication, such as a lack of sufficient sign language interpreters for those who are Deaf, or a lack of alternative format materials for those with vision-related disabilities. Some barriers were physical in nature, such as a lack of accessible medical equipment or limited physical access in medical facilities. Other issues were attitudinal, such as provider-held stereotypes about disability. And still others reflected policy issues in accommodating individual disability-related needs.

With this understanding, in 2016, the Northeast ADA began research efforts, called Customized Service Agreements, to learn more about the challenges to implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in health care. Through partnerships with regional medical providers, the Northeast ADA conducts research on issues that providers face when serving patients with disabilities to help develop best strategies and practices. In exchange for this research, the Northeast ADA offers CSA partners training and intensive technical support on the ADA and disability-related issues to assist them with strengthening their service to patients with disabilities and better implementing the law in their organization’s policies, procedures, and planning.

On March 25, 2020, the Northeast ADA will present a webinar on the topic of the ADA and health care. It will review some of the challenges noted earlier, discuss Department of Justice enforcement activity relating to equal access to health care, and share the experience of the Northeast ADA and one CSA partner, Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes (PPSFL), now known as Planned Parenthood of Greater New York. Sally Heron, Ithaca Center Manager of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, will speak to how the CSA impacted PPSFL and the lessons learned through the experience. This conversational presentation will reflect the knowledge gained by both sides through the process and how the collaboration continues to flourish.