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A new federal rule (the “Rule”) will go into effect June 8, 2024, expanding the protections for persons with disabilities with respect to federally funded programs in hospitals, social service agencies, nursing homes, and other entities.

The Rule, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), is designed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, similar to protections afforded under the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”) and other legislative enactments.

HHS enforces the federal Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability for any program or activity that receives federal assistance or is tied to a federal program.

The Rule, as updated, prohibits disability discrimination by recipients of federal funding in the following areas:

  • Medical Treatment: Ensures that medical treatments and decisions are made fairly and without bias or reliance on negative stereotypes.
  • Assessing Value: Prohibits the use of any measure or assessment that discounts the value of a life extension on the basis of disability in order to deny or limit access to benefits or services.
  • Child Welfare Programs: Includes clear language prohibiting discriminatory actions and decisions involving child welfare services, including visitation, reunification, and parenting programming.
  • Web and Mobile Accessibility: Sets forth a specific standard to ensure full accessibility in web and other mobile applications for individuals with disabilities.
  • Accessible Medical Equipment: Adopts U.S. Access Board’s standards to ensure medical equipment is accessible; for example, requires at least one accessible version of equipment for exam tables, mammography machines, and weight scales.
  • Integration: Outlines obligations for providers administering community-based services and treatments in the homes of individuals with disabilities.

The Rule also makes several additional changes for consistency with the ADA and other legislation:

  • With exceptions, recipients of federal funding must permit the use of service animals.
  • Facilities and equipment must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  • Services and devices routinely provided to those without disabilities must also be provided to those with disabilities.
  • Individuals with disabilities must be allowed to use mobility devices such as wheelchairs and other power-driven devices.
  • Recipients of federal funding must provide hearing, vision, and speech aids and services.

The Rule further clarifies that recipients of federal funding are not required to permit individuals with disabilities in their programs, if that would cause a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Such recipients need not even comply with the Rule if they demonstrate that compliance would fundamentally alter the nature of their program or would be an undue financial and administrative burden.

The specifics of compliance exemption requirements will likely be determined by administrative or judicial decisions, akin to those under the ADA and related legislation.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Rule or other disability issues, contact your FOS attorney.




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