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Indiana Protection & Advocacy Services

IPAS > Equal Access > ADA Health Care ADA Health Care

Health Care Access and the Law

For many individuals with disabilities, finding quality health care that is both affordable and accessible can be challenging. However, aws mandate that all health care facilities be accessible. This includes offices that specialize in mental, vision, dental or alternative care.

What does "Accessibility" Mean?

Accessibility applies to both physical and communication access. People with disabilities should be able to communicate with and health care facilities as conveniently as people without disabilities. 

Physical Access

Health care facilities should address such physical access issues as:

  • Accessible path-of-travel into and throughout the facility
  • Wide and easy-to-open exterior and interior doors
  • Accessible examination and/or treatment rooms and equipment
  • Accessible office and examination room hardware
  • Appropriate reach ranges
  • Accessible toilet and dressing rooms

Source: Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions (CDIHP)

If a facility's architectural barriers prevent physical access, health care providers should remove the barriers.

Areas where architectural barriers may be problematic include:

  • Parking lots
  • Doorways
  • Waiting rooms
  • Lobbies
  • Stairways

In order to meet the guidelines set forth by the ADA, parking lots should include accessible parking spaces, stairs should have alternative ramps or elevators, doorways should be wide enough for wheelchair access and waiting room or lobbies should be spacious enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

Providers should also ensure that people with disabilities have access to scales, exam tables or chairs without charging patients for the provision of the required services or devices.

Communication Access

Communication access applies to auxiliary aids, services and other types of program access. Health care providers must ensure that they can effectively communicate with people who have a range of disabilities, including people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech, vision or learning disability. Providers may use a variety of auxiliary aids and services to help facilitate communication.

Examples include:

  • Language interpreters
  • TDDs
  • Readers
  • Braille
  • Large Print

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 to provide individuals with disabilities physical and communications access. Qualifications for benefits under the ADA are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

The four key sections of the ADA include:

  1. Title I - accessibility in employment
  2. Title II - accessibility in government services
  3. Title III - accessibility in all types of businesses that serve or are open to the public, including medical offices and facilities
  4. Title IV - accessibility in telecommunications services

Under Title III of the ADA, heath care providers are required to remove barriers, make reasonable modifications and provide auxiliary aids and services if necessary.

Reasonable Modifications

People with disabilities should have access to the same goods and services as those provided to people without disabilities. If this is not possible, health care providers should modify their policies or procedures.

For example, heath care providers should make an exception to a "no pets allowed" policy for patients with services animals. Their staff members should also provide assistance to individuals who need help opening or closing doors, maneuvering through the building or accessing materials that may be out of reach.

However, if reasonable modifications are unable to be made and no doctors within the patient's plan can serve the patients needs, referrals should be provided to doctors outside of the plan.

Additional Resources

Access Board

The Access Board is an independent federal agency that issues guidelines to ensure that buildings, facilities and vehicles covered by the law are accessible to individuals with disabilities with regard to architecture, design, transportation and communication. Regulations issued by the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation must be consistent with the Access Board's guidelines.

Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F St., NW., Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-111
800-872-2253 (Voice)
800-993-2822 (TTY)
9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. EST

Untied States Department of Justice (USDOJ)

The USDOJ provides a checklist for readily achievable barrier removal that is an easy-to-use survey tool to help users identify barriers in their facilities. The completed checklists and work sheets can help an organization demonstrate that they are making a good-faith effort to comply with the requirements of the ADA. The Web site also addresses common questions about readily achievable barrier removal and provides practical information on how to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Center for Universal Design (CUD) and the North Carolina Office on Disability and Health (NCODH)

CUD and NCODH provide the "Removing Barriers to Health Care: A Guide for Health Professionals" booklet, which addresses guidelines and recommendations to help heath care professionals ensure equal use of facilities and services by all patients. This guide gives health care providers a better understanding of how to improve both the physical environment and personal interactions with patients who have disabilities.

U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Entrepreneurial Development and the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division

These two organizations created the ADA Guide for Small Business to assist small business with the American with Disabilities Act. The guide is an informal overview of basic ADA requirements small businesses, which concerns the public use of goods and services.

The Equal Right Center’s (ERC) report: You can download the full report at www.equalrightscenter.org/illprepared. An accessible version is also available at www.equalrightscenter.org/illpreparedaccess.