On January 9, 2017, the U.S. Access Board issued accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment. Provided here are answers to common questions about the new standards.
Why is the U.S. Access Board issuing standards for medical diagnostic equipment?
Access to medical diagnostic equipment (MDE) has been problematic for people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Section 510 of the Rehabilitation Act directs the Access Board to issue accessibility standards for such equipment in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration. The Access Board, a leading resource on accessible design, has developed accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, information and communication technology, and transit systems under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws.
What do the standards address?
The Board’s standards provide design criteria for examination tables and chairs, including those used for dental or optical exams, weight scales, radiological equipment, mammography equipment and other equipment used for diagnostic purposes by health professionals. The standards address equipment that requires transfer from wheelchairs and other mobility aids and include requirements for transfer surfaces, support rails, armrests, compatibility with lift devices, and other features. Equipment that accommodates mobility devices without transfer is also covered.
How were the standards developed?
To lay the groundwork for this rulemaking, the Board consulted available research, industry standards, and other resources. It also held a public meeting to gather additional information and input from stakeholders and experts. In 2012, the Board issued proposed standards for public comment. Following the comment period, the Board organized a panel of stakeholders to develop consensus recommendations on how the standards should be finalized according to the comments received. The MDE Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee, whose 24 members included representatives from disability groups, equipment manufacturers, health care providers, and standard-setting organizations, among others, presented its recommendations in a report to the Board the following year. The final standards are based on the committee’s recommendations and the public comments received on the proposed standards.
Who is required to comply with these standards?
The standards for medical diagnostic equipment, as issued by the Board, are not mandatory on health care providers or equipment manufacturers. The Department of Justice (DOJ) may undertake rulemaking to implement the standards as mandatory requirements under the ADA. In addition, other federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), could adopt the standards under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which requires access to federally funded programs and services.
Doesn’t the ADA already require access for individuals with disabilities to health care?
The ADA, as well as section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and require access to services and facilities. Under these laws, health care providers must provide people with disabilities full and equal access to their services and facilities. DOJ, which regulates and enforces key requirements of the ADA, previously issued guidance on access to medical care facilities and diagnostic equipment along with HHS that is available DOJ’s website at www.ada.gov. DOJ may undertake rulemaking to incorporate the MDE standards into its ADA regulations to establish mandatory requirements for health care providers.
Where can I get further information on the standards for diagnostic equipment?
For further information on the MDE standards, visit the Board’s website and contact Technical Assistance.