Barrier-free Healthcare

Reprinted from PN October 2012

Initiative ensures people with disabilities have access to medical information in a manner they understand.

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U.S. attorneys’ offices across the nation are partnering with the Civil Rights Division to target enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities through the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative.

The initiative makes sure people with disabilities have access to medical information in a manner they understand. It’s a multiphase plan that will also involve other key issues for people with disabilities, including ensuring physical access to medical buildings.

The nationwide initiative seeks to focus and leverage the department’s resources together and aggregate and echo the collective message that disability discrimination in healthcare is illegal and unacceptable.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, in partnership with the Disability Rights Section, recently entered into a large-scale settlement agreement with Henry Ford Health System to ensure effective communication for people who are deaf or who have hearing loss. 

Additionally, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire filed a complaint and consent decree against a major hospital in Keene, N.H., for its failures to provide effective communication and for its discriminatory decision to require a deaf patient’s hearing mother to serve as an interpreter for her daughter. 

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