Health Care Providers and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to any recipient of federal financial assistance. In the health care setting, federal financial assistance can consist of grants, loans, or other arrangements by which the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) makes available funds or services. Through Medicare/Medicaid and other grants from DHHS, many health care providers are subject to Section 504 requirements.

These health care providers cannot limit an individual with a disability in the enjoyment of any right, privilege, advantage, or opportunity enjoyed by others receiving an aid, benefit, or service. In addition, an individual with a disability cannot be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination through a covered program or activity.[1]

In order to ensure equal opportunity to benefit or participate in a program or activity, health care providers may need to provide effective aids, benefits, or services. For example, as with Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a hospital may need to provide a sign language interpreter to an individual who is Deaf in order to ensure effective communication. Similarly, a clinic may need to offer an alternative format of large print or braille for an individual with a visual disability. In addition to its own obligation to offer equal and effective opportunity and access to its programs and services, a health care provider also must not discriminate through any contract, licensing, or other arrangement.


[1] US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights (2015). Technical assistance for Medicare providers and Applicants.


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