The Rehabilitation Act: Section 510 (Medical Diagnostic Equipment)

President Obama signs the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" into law.On March 23, 2010, President Barak Obama signed into law "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (Public Law 111-148, 124 Stat. L. 119) to reform and extend provision of health care. The law includes a provision to amend the Rehabilitation Act to address access to medical diagnostic equipment, including examination tables and chairs, weight scales, x-ray machines and other radiological equipment, and mammography equipment. Under this amendment, the Board is authorized to develop access standards for medical diagnostic equipment in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration. The standards are to address independent access to, and use of, equipment by people with disabilities to the maximum extent possible. The Board is also responsible for periodically reviewing and updating the standards.

New Standards by the Access Board and FDA

As amended, Section 510 of the Rehabilitation Act directs the Access Board to issue regulatory standards for medical diagnostic equipment in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that the equipment is accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.  The Board and FDA also must periodically review and update the regulatory standards.

Equipment Covered

Section 510 describes "medical diagnostic equipment" as equipment that is:

  • used by health care professionals
  • in medical settings, such as physician's offices, clinics, emergency rooms, and hospitals,
  • for diagnostic purposes.

Medical diagnostic equipment used by health care professionals in conjunction with a medical setting, such as a mobile health unit or trailer operated by a clinic, is also covered by Section 510. Examination tables, examination chairs, mammography equipment, x-ray machines, radiological equipment, and weight scales are examples of medical diagnostic equipment covered by Section 510.

Medical equipment used solely for treatment purposes is not covered by Section 510. However, medical equipment, such as dental chairs, that are used for both examination and treatment procedures are covered by Section 510.

MDE Standards: Scope and Coverage

The new MDE standards establish minimum technical criteria that will allow patients with disabilities independent entry to, use of, and exit from medical diagnostic equipment to the maximum extent possible. Section 510 recognizes that independent access to medical diagnostic equipment may not be possible for some patients with disabilities or in some situations. Other means such as patient lifts or assisted transfer techniques may have to be used to provide access to medical diagnostic equipment for some patients with disabilities or in some situations.  

Section 510 does not authorize the Access Board to issue scoping provisions for medical diagnostic equipment. (Scoping provisions specify the minimum number of accessible features to be provided in facilities.)  Also, it does not address who is required to follow the regulatory standards. However, other Federal agencies may adopt or reference the regulatory standards in regulations, and address who is required to follow them.

The U.S. Department of Justice may adopt or reference the regulatory standards in its regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including in the provision of medical care services. Public hospitals, clinics, and medical offices operated by state and local governments are covered by Title II of the ADA. Private hospitals, clinics, and medical offices are covered by Title III of the ADA as places of public accommodation. 

 


 

Text of Section 510 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. §794f)

§794f. Establishment of Standards for Accessible Medical Diagnostic Equipment

(a) Standards - Not later than 24 months after the date of enactment of the Affordable Health Choices Act, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board shall, in consultation with the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, promulgate regulatory standards in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act setting forth the minimum technical criteria for medical diagnostic equipment used in (or in conjunction with) physician's offices, clinics, emergency rooms, hospitals, and other medical settings. The standards shall ensure that such equipment is accessible to, and usable by, individuals with accessibility needs, and shall allow independent entry to, use of, and exit from the equipment by such individuals to the maximum extent possible.

(b) Medical Diagnostic Equipment Covered - The standards issued under subsection (a) for medical diagnostic equipment shall apply to equipment that includes examination tables, examination chairs (including chairs used for eye examinations or procedures, and dental examinations or procedures), weight scales, mammography equipment, x-ray machines, and other radiological equipment commonly used for diagnostic purposes by health professionals.

(c) Review and Amendment - The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, in consultation with the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, shall periodically review and, as appropriate, amend the standards in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act.