The U.S. Access Board hosted the virtual public event “Equity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities” yesterday. The event featured panel presentations on standards, research, and resources related to healthcare accessibility, including inclusive medical equipment, healthcare facility design, and information technology, and communication devices and systems. Members of the public were able to pose questions to the presenters during the event.
Access Board Chair Greg Fehribach introduced the event and the first set of presentations from Access Board staff. Accessibility Specialist Bobby Stinnette provided a brief overview of the Board’s accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment (MDE) and its guidance on accessible prescription drug container labels. Training Coordinator Bill Botten discussed the types of medical facilities, spaces, and elements covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Senior ICT Accessibility Specialist Kathy Eng reviewed access to information and communication technology used by healthcare providers, including check-in kiosks, virtual platforms for telemedicine, websites, apps and other electronic content, software, and hardware.
Ana Torres-Davis, Senior Attorney Advisor at National Council on Disability (NCD), addressed the status of enforceable standards for accessible medical equipment. She discussed key findings of a recent NCD report on how physical barriers impact health outcomes for people with disabilities. The report also finds that the lack of enforceable MDE Standards allows for continued, widespread discrimination in healthcare for people with mobility disabilities. She closed her presentation with several recommendations in moving forward to address physical barriers in medical facilities that prevent people from receiving equitable health care.
Bill Zellmer, Program Manager of Physical Access and Regulatory Affairs at Sutter Health Care, reviewed strategies and practices for designing inclusive healthcare facilities. Zellmer reviewed design plans and solutions for exam rooms, diagnostic spaces, patient bedrooms, physical therapy rooms, rehabilitation facilities and other spaces. He also discussed practical solutions, such as eliminating protruding objects and designating space for movable furniture, to make medical rooms and spaces accessible to people with disabilities.
Zainab Alkebsi, Policy Counsel at National Association of the Deaf (NAD), presented on communication access in healthcare environments. Alkebsi reviewed several auxiliary aids and services that are available, but not always offered or sufficient to people who are deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing in healthcare situations. She also noted the technological and logistical problems in the overreliance on video remote interpreting (VRI) and virtual platforms for telehealth. Alkebsi concluded her presentation with a call to action to implement appropriate protocols in consultation with the deaf and hard of hearing community.
A recording of the session is available on the Board’s YouTube Channel. Presentation materials are available in PPT (16MB) or PDF (5MB) formats. To receive updates on healthcare and accessibility, sign up for the Board’s e-subscription.