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New HHS Final Rule Strengthens Protections Against Disability Discrimination

(May 20, 2024) On May 1st, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a rule to strengthen protections against disability discrimination. The rule seeks to advance equity and strengthen protections for people with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. It will take effect 60 days after it was published.

The final rule, which applies to all federally funded HHS programs, including hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers, updates and clarifies existing protections under Section 504 by:

  • ensuring that medical treatment decisions are not based on biases or stereotypes about people with disabilities.
  • clarifying obligations to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of people with disabilities, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C.
  • adopting the U.S. Access Board’s accessibility standards for medical equipment to address barriers to care, like exam tables that are inaccessible because they are not height-adjustable, weight scales that cannot accommodate people in wheelchairs, and mammogram machines that require an individual to stand to use them.
  • adopting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, Level AA accessibility standards for websites and mobile applications. It also requires web-enabled systems in self-service kiosks in medical providers’ offices to be accessible.
  • prohibiting the use of value assessment tools that discount the value of a life extension on the basis of disability to deny, limit, or otherwise condition access to an aid, benefit, or service.

The HHS Fact Sheet on the final rule is here, and the rule itself is here.

Contact: Karen Lipson, klipson@leadingageny.org