Know Your Rights to Health Care

by Karen Hughes and Robert Goodman

Have you ever contacted a health-care facility as a new patient and the medical receptionist asked you to bring someone with you to complete the paperwork? Have you ever had a staff person ask you your medical history in the waiting room, where other patients are sitting? Have you ever been given a serious diagnosis and then been handed printed medical documents to complete but, due to your blindness, you could not read them? Have doctors and other medical staff ever spoken to you in a disrespectful or patronizing manner?  Or have you ever gone to a pharmacy and received bottles of medicine which you could not differentiate or with instructions you could not read?
Unfortunately, these scenarios are all too common for patients who are blind or visually impaired. This will continue to be both a significant health issue and a social problem unless we take action now. Patients with disabilities have some additional rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These laws guarantee that people with disabilities will have the same access to health care and other services as people without disabilities.
We’d bet that you or someone you know can identify with the above situations. If so, you will want to attend the Health Issues Rights Seminar at the ACB national conference and convention in Minneapolis, to be held on Wednesday, July 6th, at 2:45 p.m. Megan Ryan, an attorney who specializes in health care structured negotiations, will be our featured speaker.  She is with the firm of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho. This session is being sponsored by the ACB advocacy committee and the health issues task force.
As blind or visually impaired people, we need to be our own advocates. This workshop will enable us to gain insight and learn strategies. In addition to an informative, interactive and lively discussion, we will receive materials in an accessible format on patients’ rights, specifically the ADA and how to make informed medical decisions. The benefits will be great — your stress will be reduced. So come and participate.