Hospitals & Facilities

Proposed ADA changes may make medical equipment more accessible for patients with disabilities

Patients with disabilities are routinely denied basic healthcare services due to a lack of accessible equipment, according to the DOJ.
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Newly proposed rules from the Department of Justice (DOJ) may make medical equipment more accessible for people with disabilities.

The new rules, proposed in early January, would require all publicly owned healthcare facilities keep a certain amount of accessible equipment on hand.

“Individuals with disabilities often experience great difficulty obtaining routine or preventative medical care because of inaccessible medical diagnostic equipment,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights at the DOJ, said in a statement. “From examination tables to weight scales to mammography equipment, accessible [medical equipment] is critical to ensuring equal access to medical care.”

About 13.7% of roughly 61 million adults with disabilities in the US have symptoms that affect their ability to walk or climb stairs, the DOJ noted.

If finalized, the rule would establish “enforceable standards” for accessible medical equipment, including prohibiting facilities from denying services because of a lack of equipment and from requiring patients to bring someone to help them with their appointments. It would also require facilities to train staff in using accessible medical equipment.

“The department has received many complaints from individuals with disabilities that healthcare providers have not provided them with basic, vital healthcare—for example, not obtaining an accurate weight when administering anesthesia before surgery—because of the lack of accessible [medical equipment],” the department stated in the statement.

The public comment period will end on February 12, after which the department will consider the feedback, possibly make changes to the proposed rules, and then submit a final version for presidential approval.

Sixty days after the rule is finalized, all medical equipment purchased by public healthcare facilities would need to meet accessibility standards. Facilities would have two years to make sure they have at least one exam table and weight scale that meet the accessibility standards.

“This groundbreaking rule marks a significant milestone in the Justice Department’s efforts to remove barriers that people with disabilities face when accessing medical care,” Clarke said in a statement.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.