NCD letter to DOJ regarding Accessible Medical Equipment report

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June 24, 2021

The Honorable Merrick B. Garland 
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

The Honorable Kristen Clarke 
Assistant Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Garland and Ms. Clarke:

On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), I write to submit our recently released report, Enforceable Accessible Medical Equipment Standards - A Necessary Means to Address the Health Care Needs of People with Mobility Disabilities (the Report).[1] The Report documents the significant health care disparities of people with mobility disabilities and the physical barriers, in the form of inaccessible medical diagnostic equipment, that impede access to health care, leading to delayed and incomplete care, misdiagnosis, exacerbation of an original disability, and an increased likelihood of developing secondary conditions.

In full recognition of the barrier to health care created by inaccessible medical equipment, in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandated that the U.S. Access Board develop standards for accessible medical diagnostic equipment. The Access Board published these standards (MDE Standards) on January 9, 2017.  As you know, the MDE Standards do not have the force of law until an enforcing authority, such as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), adopts them by regulation. In 2013, DOJ set out to do just that as it issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on accessible medical equipment under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ANPRM was withdrawn, on December 26, 2017, to permit the DOJ to reevaluate whether a regulation was necessary and appropriate. NCD objected to the withdrawal and prioritized the development and drafting of this report to provide a thorough explanation of the impacts of inaccessible medical equipment, including a recommendation that DOJ move ahead with regulatory action to address this pervasive disability discrimination.

As your federal advisor on disability policy, NCD requests the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this report. Without a regulation, widespread unavailability of height adjustable examination tables, accessible mammography equipment, accessible weight scales and lift equipment to facilitate transfers, among other accessible medical and diagnostic equipment, will remain the status quo. People with mobility disabilities will remain less likely to receive preventive health care services—like cervical cancer screening; colorectal cancer screening; obesity screening; and breast cancer screening. Further, the long-standing health care disparities between people with mobility disabilities and their nondisabled counterparts will continue. To make this meeting most productive, the U.S. Access Board should join us. I’ve spoken to its Chair, Gregory Fehribach, and he is aware of this ask and agrees to meet.

We look forward to meeting with you to discuss this important matter. You can reach me at (202) 272-2004 or via email at agallegos@ncd.gov. As a matter of courtesy, on July 12, 2021, our acting Executive Director and General Counsel, Joan Durocher, will contact your office to coordinate a meeting if we don’t hear from your office before then. Ms. Durocher can be reached at jdurocher@ncd.gov.

Respectfully,

Andrés J. Gallegos
Chairman

 

Cc:     Rebecca Bond, Esq.,
Chief, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section

Gregory S. Fehribach, Esq.
Chair, US Access Board