On Nov. 13, the AAMC Center for Health Justice submitted comments to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on proposed updates to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in HHS programs or activities.
Uprooting ableism and ensuring equitable access to healthcare, health programs, and related activities for people with disabilities is critical for ensuring overall health and advancing health equity, especially since historically marginalized groups with disabilities have unequal access to adequate health care and experience poorer health outcomes. These long-awaited revisions mark the first major update to Section 504 in nearly 50 years and will facilitate equitable and effective health care for people with disabilities, currently the largest minority group in the United States. The revisions include:
- Revisions to the definition of disability, including removal of the word “handicapped”
- Expansion of electronic technology (i.e., web, mobile, kiosk accessibility) to increase accessibility
- Prohibition of discrimination in medical treatment and decision-making
The center supported the changes and recommended that HHS guide medical device accessibility, support the participation of people with disabilities in the federal workforce, and consider social determinants of health. The center also urged HHS to develop a permanent mechanism for bi-directional collaboration with members of the disability community, including racial and ethnic minorities and LGBTQIA+ people.