Doctors do not understand patients’ rights under the ADA.

Jamie StrawbridgeBy Jamie Strawbridge

A landmark academic study released this month confirms what many patients with disabilities already knew—too many doctors do not understand the rights of patients with disabilities, which jeopardizes the ability of those patients to obtain equitable healthcare.

By law, healthcare providers must provide reasonable accommodations to patients with disabilities.  They also must ensure that communications with such patients—including blind and deaf patients—are as effective as communications with everyone else.  These obligations were enshrined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) more than 30 years ago.

In the new study, however, roughly one-third of doctors surveyed by the study’s authors reported knowing “little or nothing” about their responsibilities under the ADA.  Almost three-quarters of the doctors participating in the study did not know who decides which accommodations to provide to patients who need them.  And, tellingly, only 40 percent of surveyed doctors were confident about providing equal-quality care to patients with disabilities.

Patients with disabilities are entitled to the same quality healthcare as other patients.  But the means by which such equitable care is achieved varies depending on the needs of the patient.  With respect to effective communication, for instance, patients with low vision may require doctor’s instructions to be in Braille or large print so that those patients know how to care for themselves once they return home.  Deaf patients discussing options with their surgeon, by contrast, may require sign language interpreters to be present for that conversation.  The ADA generally requires healthcare providers to provide these accommodations and to do so free of charge.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.  As the study notes, many people with disabilities still receive sub-par healthcare, and the continued failure of healthcare providers to understand the ADA and provide appropriate accommodations is part of the problem.

The attorneys at Brown, Goldstein & Levy have experience assisting clients who were not provided appropriate accommodations by their healthcare providers.  We assist such clients as part of our nationwide disability rights practice, which strives to ensure that individuals with disabilities from California to North Carolina receive accommodations they need when visiting a hospital, attending a baseball game, taking a standardized test, or logging onto a website.

If you have a disability and have been denied an accommodation when visiting a healthcare practice, or if you have any questions about your right to disability-related accommodations under federal law, consider contacting us to discuss your situation.

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Jamie Strawbridge Associate