The clinician-patient with a disability relationship

The clinician-patient relationship is crucial to the diagnosis, treatment, and care for an individual. Respectful communication with and about the patient is essential. Beyond their medical needs, a patient may wish for assistance from their health care provider in documenting a disability related accommodation need. The provider must work with the individual effectively. The providers, in turn, may need assistance in meeting their ADA obligations.

Tax benefits to help cover accommodations/barrier removal

There is assistance available for a health care provider to cover the cost for an accommodation given or alteration made. The IRS offers several tax benefits to help a business to meet its ADA obligations for barrier removal, for providing auxiliary aids or services, and for accommodating employees. These benefits depend on the size and financial make-up of an organization. The Architectural / Transportation Tax Deduction is available to all businesses and allows for a $15,000 deduction to remove physical, structural, and transportation barriers. The Disabled Access Credit is available to small businesses to assist with the cost of removing barriers, providing auxiliary aids or services, or for accommodations for employees with disabilities. It allows a business to credit 50% of the cost between $250 and $10,250 for up to a $5,000 credit.

Communicating respectfully and clearly

Clear, respectful communication is essential to ensure that the patient is fully heard and understood. Even if a health care professional is familiar with a particular type of disability, every individual's experience of their disability and related needs is unique. Here are some tips to create a positive interaction:

  • Recognize that disability may be seen as a part of the patient's self-identity
  • Use person-first language unless the patient specifies otherwise; a woman with multiple sclerosis, a man who is blind
  • Relax; do not be afraid to make a mistake
  • Treat adults as adults; they are people first
  • Do not make assumptions about what a person can and cannot do
  • Do not assume they experience their disability the same way you do or would
  • Offer assistance, and, if accepted, follow the lead of the individual
  • Address the individual, not their companion or interpreter
  • Do not distract service animals
  • Listen; the patient will share how they best communicate, what their needs are, and how they wished to be addressed

Helping patients with disabilities document their accommodation needs

A patient with a disability might approach their health care professional to help him or her document their disability. This could be for several reasons. For example, a person may need a reasonable accommodation for their job;because of their disability, they need an adjustment in their work environment to enable them to perform their essential job functions. In this instance, an employer may provide a form for the medical professional to complete. This form should address the disability as it relates to the accommodation requested. It should not require or ask for health information that goes beyond the scope of the accommodation request.

Another reason that a patient may request documentation is for a reasonable accommodation or modification in a housing situation. In this case, the documentation simply should state that the individual has a disability and that there is a disability related need for the requested accommodation or modification.

A third reason for a documentation request could be related to an educational need. At times, a person with a disability must document their disability in order to receive an accommodation or service from an educational entity.

Citation for "Tax benefits to help cover accommodations/barrier removal"

ADA National Network (2005). ADA quick tips _ tax incentives. Washington, D.C.: Author. Retrieved from

Citation for "Communicating respectfully and clearly"

U.S. Center for Disease Control (2010). Communicating with and about people with disabilities. Atlanta, GA: Author. Retrieved from


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