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Federal report calls for DOJ, HHS adoption of federal accessibility standards for medical and diagnostic equipment

Thursday, May 20, 2021

For Immediate Release                                 

WASHINGTON – Today, the National Council on Disability (NCD)–an independent federal agency–released a report focused on much needed federal regulations that would address among the most significant barriers to health care for people with mobility disabilities.

Enforceable Accessible Medical Equipment Standards: A Necessary Means to Address the Health Care Needs of People with Mobility Disabilities examines the challenges of physical accessibility barriers of traditional medical diagnostic equipment (MDE) to preventative, primary and specialty care. While health care providers by law are required to ensure full and equal access to health care services and facilities, MDE standards developed by the U.S. Access Board and published in 2017 have never been adopted by enforcing agencies and are therefore not enforced effectively.

“Thirteen percent of American adults have some form of disability impacting their functional mobility, which means there are a significant number of Americans who experience significant barriers to healthcare exams and preventative care for the absence of accessible examination tables, examination chairs, and other medical and diagnostic equipment,” said NCD Chairman Andrés Gallegos. “As someone who has experienced this first-hand, I can attest that health equity for people with mobility disabilities will remain elusive, absent formal adoption of the MDE standards by enforcing federal agencies.”

Key findings and recommendations from Enforceable Accessible Medical Equipment Standards include:

Key Findings

  • More than 20 million people over the age of 18 years have a disability that limits their functional mobility and creates a barrier to accessing standard MDE;
  • People with disabilities reported their healthcare professionals often created ad hoc “accommodations” due to inaccessible MDE that included skipping parts of examinations during which a barrier was encountered or even refusing to treat the patient due to facility’s inaccessibility;
  • Medical staff are unfamiliar with the proper use of accessible MDE even when it is available; 
  • The U.S. Department of Justice’s Disability Rights Section (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) have mechanisms to allow people with disabilities to file administrative complaints against health care providers due to inaccessible MDE, but this has not resulted in widespread change to increase the availability of accessible MDE in health care facilities; and
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the only federal agency to require that all new equipment purchases across the Veterans’ Affairs Health System meet MDE standards.

Key Recommendations:

  • HHS OCR should issue a regulation requiring covered health care providers to acquire accessible equipment that complies with the MDE Standards as well as develop a technical assistance document on accessible MDE;
  • DOJ should revise its Title II and III ADA regulations requiring covered health care providers to acquire equipment that complies with the MDE Standards as well as develop a technical assistance document on accessible MDE and update the 2010 “Access to Medical Care for Individuals with Mobility Disabilities” to include information on the Access Board’s MDE Standards;
  • VA should publish their policies and practices on accessible MDE and share this information with other federal agencies along with information on the cost-effectiveness of implementing the MDE Standards; and 
  • The U.S. Department of Education should develop training requirement standards that include the use of accessible MDE and require that all federally funded medical residency programs include disability competency training.

Read this and all of NCD’s reports at

An official website of the National Council on Disability