FRIDAY: Gateway to Health Care
This week, in honor of the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disablities Act (ADA), we have recognized and celebrated the different gateways that the ADA has opened up to people with disabilities. On the final day of our celebration we highlight the ADA as a Gateway to Health Care. In addition, to commemorate ADA anniversary week, and especially today — the ADA anniversary day, Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels has issued a message reaffirming the Division’s commitment to the promise of equal opportunity for people with disabilities.
Ensuring full and equal access to health care for individuals with disabilities is an essential protection of the ADA. Too often people with disabilities face insurmountable obstacles to basic health care, including communication barriers and exclusionary policies.
One year ago, , the Civil Rights Division announced the creation of the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative. In partnership with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative focuses the Justice Department’s enforcement efforts on the vital need for access to health care for individuals with disabilities, particularly individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, have mobility disabilities, or have HIV/AIDS.
In the past year, the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices have entered into 18 settlements under the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative. Recently, three of these agreements were reached to provide auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreters, to individuals who are deaf to ensure effective communication in health care settings. In addition, in the past six months, the Department has reached five settlement agreements with medical providers to address HIV discrimination.
Addressing Barriers that Exclude People with HIV
Barix Clinics: Today, the Disability Rights Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan entered into a settlement agreement with Barix Clinics, an organization that operates bariatric treatment facilities in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The settlement resolves allegations that Barix Clinics unlawfully refused to perform bariatric surgery on a man at its Langhorne, Pa., facility because he has HIV. The Department also determined that Barix Clinics cancelled bariatric surgery for another individual at its Ypsilanti, Mich., facility because he has HIV. Under the settlement, Barix Clinics must pay $35,000 to the complainants and a $10,000 civil penalty, as well as train its staff on the ADA and implement an anti-discrimination policy.
HIV/AIDS Website: Today, the Disability Rights Section launches its newly redesigned HIV/AIDS web page. The web page provides helpful information regarding HIV/AIDS discrimination, including settlement agreements that the Justice Department has reached, publications that explain the rights of people with HIV/AIDS under the ADA and ways to file a discrimination complaint with the Justice Department.
Addressing Communication Barriers to Healthcare
The Heart Center of Memphis: On June 27, 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee entered into a settlement agreement with the Heart Center of Memphis. The complaint alleged that the Heart Center advised the complainant, who is deaf, that it was his responsibility to arrange a sign language interpreter for his appointment. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to get the Heart Center to provide a qualified sign language interpreter as required by law, the complainant was forced to cancel his appointment. In the settlement agreement, the Heart Center agreed to provide qualified sign language and oral interpreters as well as other auxiliary aids and services to patients who are deaf, have hearing loss or have speech disabilities.
Midtown Neurology P.C.: On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia entered into a settlement agreement with Midtown Neurology P.C. The complaint alleged that Midtown Neurology P.C. failed to provide, over multiple appointments, a qualified sign language interpreter for a patient who is deaf. At one appointment, the patient underwent a painful neurological test. Because there was no interpreter, the patient could not communicate that she was frightened and in pain, and that she wanted the doctor to stop the procedure. Under the agreement, Midtown Neurology P.C. will provide auxiliary aids and services, including qualified interpreters, to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing where necessary to ensure effective communication.
Visit the ADA Anniversary webpage to view previous blog entries, and for more general information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit ADA.gov, or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).