On September 7, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published proposed new rules to strengthen protections for people with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
These new rules are open for public comment through November 13, 2023. You can electronically submit comments here. You can also mail them to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, Attention: Disability NPRM, RIN 0945–AA15, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 509F, 200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20201. Remember that your comments will be published on a public website exactly as you write them.
You can learn more about the proposed updates in these documents:
- HHS Issues New Proposed Rule to Strengthen Prohibitions Against Discrimination on the Basis of a Disability in Health Care and Human Services Programs
- Fact sheet Summary of the rule
- Proposed Changes in Federal Register
The fact sheet summary of the rule highlights these six areas:
- Medical treatment. This section makes sure that people with intellectual and other disabilities are not discriminated against when it comes to things like organ transplants, distribution of respirators and other life-saving equipment in a crisis and state standards for crisis care decisions. These rules mean that people with disabilities would have the same chance as people without disabilities to get organ transplants and access to respirators and other life-saving equipment, even when these things are scarce.
- Value assessment methods.This section requires states to place equal value on the lives of people with and without disabilities when working with insurance companies and other groups that pay for medical care.
- Child welfare programs and activities. This section describes detailed requirements for “parent-child visitation, reunification services, child removals and child placements, guardianship, parenting skills programs, foster and adoptive parent assessments, and in and out-of-home services” to ensure child welfare programs treat parents with disabilities the same as parents without disabilities. Parents with intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses cannot be denied custody of their children or shut out of being foster or adoptive parents simply because of their disabilities.
- Web and mobile accessibility. This section defines what it means for people with disabilities to be able to get to and use websites, web and mobile applications, and self-service kiosks. It also sets standards to ensure people with disabilities can access and use electronic platforms.
- Accessible medical equipment. This section addresses barriers such as “exam tables that are not height adjustable, mammography machines that require a person to stand, and weight scales that do not accommodate wheelchairs.” It also establishes “enforceable standards for accessible medical diagnostic equipment.” It requires “within two years of the rule’s effective date, recipients that use an examination table in their program or activity have at least one accessible exam table.” Recipients who use a weight scale in their program or activity must have at least one scale they can use while in a wheelchair.
- Integration. “The proposed rule incorporates language reflecting principles established through Supreme Court and other significant court decisions that require the provision of community-based services to persons with disabilities when such services are appropriate, the affected persons do not oppose community-based treatment, and the placement in a community setting can be reasonably accommodated.”
We urge you to submit public comments if these issues affect your family. Nobody knows better than people who have disabilities and those raising children with disabilities what is needed. Your lived experience gives you valuable insight into what would be most helpful. Your comments do not have to be in a specific format. You can type in your suggestions or ideas at the comment link or mail them to the address earlier in this blog entry.
If you would like support with computer access or the submission process, Families as Allies is happy to help you. You can contact us at 601-355-0915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We will never try to influence or suggest what your comments should be. We trust your lived experience, believe you know your child better than anyone, and are their best advocate.