Empty room of a doctor's office for examination. Wheelchair in room, room is promoting accessibility for wheelchair users.

Enforcing Accessibility Standards for Medical Equipment

Nearly fifty years after Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act went into effect, Americans with disabilities are still fighting for the same rights and opportunities as their peers. Health disparities affect minorities across America every day. 

Doctor’s offices typically lack accessible examination tables, scales, and diagnostic equipment. The challenge of accessing medical care prevents individuals with disabilities from completing routine checkups and preventative scans. The U.S. Department of Justice’s suggestion to update laws regarding accessibility in health care can be life-changing for many Americans.

The proposed updates to Section 504 aim to provide civil rights to individuals with disabilities who receive treatment in publicly-funded hospitals and healthcare clinics. As U.S. Department of Health and Human Services General Counsel Samuel Bagenstos stated, “Freedom from disability-based discrimination is a civil right—and in health and human services programs, it can be a matter of life and death.”

The Hard-hitting Facts

According to The Center for American Progress (CAP), “The United States has added 2.7 million more adults with disabilities in the past two years.” Below are more facts from CAP that truly outline what many Americans with disabilities face in the U.S. healthcare system:

  • - Lack of provider training 
  • - Inaccessible physical infrastructure for examination tables, scales, X-rays, and mammography machines
  • - Disabled women are much less likely to receive Pap smears (as low as 66.1 percent) compared with nondisabled women (81.4 percent). Disabled women are also much less likely to have a mammogram (as low as 61.2 percent) when compared with nondisabled women (72.8 percent).
  • - Disabled people are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages and have higher breast cancer mortality rates compared with their nondisabled peers

Real Experiences

It is baffling to imagine that accessing equitable healthcare will remain a challenge in 2024. Unfortunately, humans have experienced instances of heinous malpractice due to inaccessibility. The U.S. Department of Justice cited multiple complaints from first-hand accounts: 

  • - Doctors failed to obtain an accurate weight before administering anesthesia to one patient. The doctors claimed there was no accessible method to get the patient on a scale for a reading. 
  • - While a patient remained in their wheelchair for their entire annual exam, a doctor assumed that the patient’s lower half of their body was fine. The doctor did not have a safe, effective way to inspect half of the patient’s body. The solution: not inspecting them. 
  • - Many patients have faced fear at doctor’s appointments while sitting or standing in positions that do not foster a safe environment. This sense of fear deters individuals with disabilities from seeking routine healthcare.

Proposed Rule Breakdown

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) outlines its goals in updating regulations against discrimination under Section 504. The NPRM provides a clear idea of goals and solutions to challenges. 

  • - Clarifies obligations for web, mobile, and kiosk accessibility
  • - Establishes enforceable standards for accessible medical equipment
  • - Clarifies requirements in HHS-funded child welfare programs and activities
  • - Ensures that medical treatment decisions are not based on biases or stereotypes about individuals with disabilities
  • - Prohibits the use of value assessment methods that place a lower value on life extension for individuals with disabilities when used to limit access or to deny aids, benefits, and services.
  • - Clarifies obligations to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities.

A Brighter Future

The discussion of increasing medical accessibility for individuals with disabilities offers significantly more visibility into the everyday challenges faced. The decision to propose this new rule and standard helps break down barriers to accessing medical care. 

A brighter future is on the horizon regarding access to healthcare for all. However, there is still action that individuals can take to spread awareness and urgency regarding this proposal. 

Utilize this link to access the docket for the proposed rule for “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability: Accessibility of Medical Diagnostic Equipment of State and Local Government Entities.” After further education, leave a comment regarding how this rule can impact you, your loved ones, or even your community. Use your voice to make our society more inclusive and accessible for all! 

Additionally, read more about ADA compliance on our website. Contact us today for more information on how to make your projects ADA-compliant and accessible for all!










Connect with us

We pride ourselves on our customer service, and we'd love to hear from you! Sign up for our newsletter to keep up with industry updates and trends, as well as any new product releases.