In a step towards promoting equal access to healthcare and human services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has just announced a new proposed rule: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance. This proposed rule aims to strengthen regulations against discrimination on the basis of disability, updating provisions that help people with disabilities access health and human services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The announcement was made for immediate release yesterday, September 7th, 2023– the week before Disability Voting Rights Week (September 11-15, 2023), and 50 years after the enactment of the Rehabilitation Act, reflecting over 50 years of advocacy by the disability community.
A Milestone in Disability Rights
The proposed new rule would represent an advancement in the ongoing fight for disability rights. For many Americans, especially for those with disabilities, accessing quality healthcare can be a challenge. This rule aims to reduce that challenge, designed to ensure people with disabilities are not subjected to discrimination in any program or activity receiving funding from HHS solely because of their disability. Freedom from disability-based discrimination is a civil right, and that it could very much be a matter of life and death in health and human services programs. It reflects commitment to improve disability rights, and would be a step towards a more inclusive, equitable and accessible healthcare system for all.
Key Provisions of the Proposed Rule:
- Eliminating Bias: It ensures that medical treatment decisions are not based on biases or stereotypes about individuals with disabilities.
- Web Accessibility: The rule clarifies obligations for web, mobile, and kiosk accessibility to ensure digital information is available to all.
- Accessible Medical Equipment: Enforceable standards for accessible medical equipment will be established to enhance healthcare access.
- Child Welfare Programs: Clarifications are made regarding requirements in HHS-funded child welfare programs and activities.
- Value Assessment: It prohibits the use of value assessment methods that place a lower value on life-extension for individuals with disabilities.
- Integrated Services: Clarifications emphasize the obligation to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities.
It’s important to note that this rulemaking is still underway. If you believe you or someone else has been discriminated against on the basis of disability, you can file a complaint through the OCR complaint portal here.
At E4Texas, we recognize the significance of such developments in advancing disability rights. We believe in empowering our students to participate fully in society, and advocate for their rights, including in the areas of healthcare and human services.
For more information about the E4Texas inclusive post-secondary program at the University of Texas-Austin, please visit the E4Texas website, where you can register for our upcoming annual Open House to learn all about this employment-focused transition program! Your journey towards growth and empowerment starts here!