General Information

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in everyday activities, including medical services. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities on the basis of their disability in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance, including health programs and services. These statutes require medical care providers to make their services available in an accessible manner.

The ADA requires access to medical care services and the facilities where the services are provided. Private hospitals or medical offices are covered by Title III of the ADA as places of public accommodation. Public hospitals and clinics and medical offices operated by state and local governments are covered by Title II of the ADA as programs of the public entities. Section 504 covers any of these that receive federal financial assistance, which can include Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. The standards adopted under the ADA to ensure equal access to individuals with disabilities are generally the same as those required under Section 504.

Access to Medical Care for Individuals with Mobility Disabilities

Accessibility of doctors’ offices, clinics, and other health care providers is essential in providing medical care to people with disabilities. Due to barriers, individuals with disabilities are less likely to get routine preventative medical care than people without disabilities. Accessibility is not only legally required, it is important medically so that minor problems can be detected and treated before turning into major and possibly life-threatening problems.

The U.S. Department of Justice has prepared a technical assistance publication for medical care providers on the requirements of the ADA in medical settings with respect to people with mobility disabilities, which include, for example, those who use wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, crutches, or no mobility devices at all.

ADA Business BRIEF: Service Animals

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.

In 2011, the Department of Justice published revised final regulations, clarifying and refining issues that have arisen over the past 20 years, and containing new, updated requirements.

ADA Business BRIEF: Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Hospital Settings

People who are deaf or hard of hearing use a variety of ways to communicate. Some rely on sign language interpreters or assistive listening devices; some rely primarily on written messages. Many can speak even though they cannot hear. The method of communication and the services or aids the hospital must provide will vary depending upon the abilities of the person who is deaf or hard of hearing and on the complexity and nature of the communications that are required. Effective communication is particularly critical in health care settings where miscommunication may lead to misdiagnosis and improper or delayed medical treatment.

OSHPD Design Notice

The Division of the State Architect – Access Compliance (DSA – AC) adopts code requirements relating to accessibility for persons with disabilities. The purpose of these code requirements is to ensure that barrier-free design is incorporated in all buildings, facilities, site work, additions, alterations, and structural repairs. The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) enforces the DSA – AC accessibility code requirements for hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and intermediate care facilities.

OSHPD has developed a Code Application Notice (CAN) to clarify and interpret code sections in the 2007 California Building Code (CBC) to provide consistent interpretation and application of regulations for accessibility as they relate to the construction and alteration of health facilities under the jurisdiction of OSHPD.

State and Federal ADA Information

You may view or download ADA information on the ADA website. This website provides access to the ADA Business Connection, ADA design standards, regulations, policy letters, technical assistance materials, and general ADA information. It also provides links to other Federal agencies and news about new ADA requirements and enforcement efforts.

State law also governs access to health care for persons with disabilities. The California Disability Access Information website provides information and links on the major laws, regulations and areas of interest regarding disability rights and access for Californians with disabilities and other interested persons. The primary California state law is the Unruh Civil Rights Act and related laws.