[announce] New Initiative Examines Accessibility of Health Care System
ebridges at acb.org
Fri Dec 11 22:42:45 GMT 2009
For the past few months, ACB members and representatives from the national
office have been meeting on a regular basis with the Equal Rights Center
(ERC) in Washington to discuss a wide array of access issues. While the
below article profiles physical accessibility issues for individuals with
mobility disabilities in the Washington DC area, the ERC wants to hear from
the blind and visually impaired community nationally. We have spoken about
the lack of accessible prescription drug labels, the loss of privacy that
occurs when having to dictate private information to medical staff in order
to complete forms, and the lack of brochures and other publications in
alternate formats that describe the illness or other disease you may be
diagnosed with. Please feel free to contact ERC with these or other concerns
you have with the inaccessibility of our health system.
The ERC was founded in 1983 as the Fair Housing Council of Greater
Washington. In 1999, the FHC merged with the Fair Employment Council of
Greater Washington and changed its name to the ERC. Finally, in 2005 the
Disability Rights Council merged with the ERC.
New Initiative Examines Accessibility of Health Care System
In response to complaints about inaccessible medical services and equipment,
the Equal Rights Center (ERC) has launched a new initiative aimed at
eliminating this form of discrimination. The initiative began after three
ERC members who use wheelchairs called the ERC to report denial of services,
inaccessible tables, and inadequate lifting practices at medical clinics in
"The inaccessibility of basic medical equipment, such as examination tables,
seriously compromises the quality of care individuals with disabilities
receive," said ERC Executive Director, Don Kahl. "Not providing equal
preventative and urgent care services to a large segment of our population
is not only illegal but also a disservice to our entire country."
These complaints are not the first encountered by the ERC in addressing
accessibility barriers. In 2005 the ERC advocated for accessible medical
facilities and reached a settlement with Washington Hospital Center, which
mandated that medical facilities, such as examination rooms, examination
tables and other medical equipment be made accessible. The settlement also
addressed inadequacies in policies and procedures to ensure that patients
with disabilities receive the assistance they need to eat, drink, and
otherwise care for themselves.
"A health center should be a place of safe harbor for all individuals," said
Jennifer Wolfsheimer, the ERC's Disability Rights Manager. "Equal treatment
at health centers not only improves the wellbeing of the individuals who
visit, but also improves the lives of the entire community through a more
healthy and active citizenry."
In an effort to ensure people with disabilities do not encounter similar
forms of discrimination, the ERC has began an initiative to educate people
with disabilities about their rights and health care providers about their
responsibilities and, when necessary, advocacy and enforcement directed at
those who violate the laws protecting people with disabilities.
If you or anyone you know has encountered accessibility issues at a health
facility or if you would like to get involved in this initiative please
contact Jennifer Wolfsheimer at 202-370-3210 or
jwolfsheimer at equalrightscenter.org
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