Risk Management

2019 March Bulletin: ADA Act

March 2019 Risk Management Bulletin

Americans with Disabilities Act – Patient Rights and Your Duties

On July 26, 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) to combat discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, state and local governmental services, public transportation, and telecommunications. Included within the definition of “public accommodation” are the professional offices of health care providers, regardless of the size of the office or the number of employees. The Act therefore applies to physicians, dentists, psychologists, hospitals, surgery centers, nursing homes, and all other providers of mental and physical care. All are prohibited from discriminating against disabled people with regard to the provision of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations.

Generally, the ADA affects physician practices in three ways:

  • Discriminatory employment/hiring practices are prohibited.
  • Architectural barriers must be removed.
  • Health care providers have a duty to effectively communicate with patients who have vision or hearing impairments.

Enforcement of the ADA and its regulations may be brought about in two ways: private party lawsuits seeking court orders to stop discrimination (no monetary damages are available) and individual complaints to the Attorney General, who is authorized to bring lawsuits with civil penalties that may not exceed $50,000 for a first violation or $100,000 for any subsequent violation.

Formulating a plan now on how to comply with these regulations will promote patient safety and reduce your liability exposure.


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