Accessible Health Care

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act require that health care providers provide individuals with disabilities full and equal access to their health care services and facilities.  Title II of the ADA applies to public hospitals, clinics and health care services operated by state and local governments and Title III of the ADA applies to privately-owned and operated hospitals, clinics and health care providers.  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to recipients of federal financial assistance such as Medicaid and federally conducted programs. 

Who Is Affected by Inaccessible Medical Facilities and Services?

Number of people in U.S. reporting a:

Mobility Disability = 19,937,600

Hearing Disability = 10,556,600

Vision Disability = 6,636,900

Cognitive Disability = 14,144,300

Source: U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey 2011


Is Your Facility Accessible for All Patients?

Make sure your facility has the following accessibility features:

  • Accessible parking spaces, curb ramps or loading zones at building entrance.
  • Accessible, stairs-free route from parking and loading zones up to building entrance.
  • Doorways wide enough to ensure safe and accessible passage by individuals using mobility aids.
  • Accessible routes of travel into and throughout buildings.
  • Restrooms that have adequate maneuvering space for wheelchairs around toilets, grab bars mounted next to and behind toilets, and accessible lavatories.
  • Drinking fountains, public telephones, and service counters low enough for an individual who uses a wheelchair or scooter or is of short stature.
  • No objects protruding into routes of travel that would pose a hazard for someone who is blind or has limited vision.
  • Signage with Braille and raised tactile text characters at office, elevator and restroom doors.

Are your Examination Rooms and Medical Equipment accessible to patients who use mobility aids?

Clear floor space for wheelchair next to exam table

Provide a minimum clear floor space of 30 by 48 inches next to exam tables so that persons using a wheelchair or other mobility aid can transfer onto the tables.

People using mobility aids must be able to transfer safely and easily to and from your exam tables and chairs.

Transfer from walker to exam table

Mammography equipment and patient using wheelchair

Your mammography equipment must be accessible for patients who use wheelchairs.

Provide patient scales that are capable of weighing a person using a mobility aid like a wheelchair.

Patient in wheelchair using accessible weight scale

Turning space for wheelchair

Make sure your examination rooms provide clear floor space for a person to turn in a wheelchair or scooter.


Are You Able to Effectively Communicate with Your Patients
Who Have Hearing, Vision, Speech or Cognitive Disabilities?


Type of Disability

Some Suggestions for Accommodations


  • Face the patient when speaking.
  • Use written notes for uncomplicated, short, routine communication.
  • Qualified sign language interpreters may be required for more complex situations.


  • Provide print information in large print, Braille, as an audio recording or in electronic format for use with a screen reader.
  • With the patient’s permission, provide a qualified reader.
  • Ensure that your web site can be used by all patients, including those who are blind and may use computer screen reading technology.


  • If you have difficulty understanding a patient’s speech, be patient, listen attentively and ask the patient to repeat or write the message.
  • Allow more time to communicate with someone who uses a communication board or device.


  • With the patient’s permission, provide a reader.
  • If the patient is having difficulty with communication, be patient, repeat your message and question the patient to verify their understanding.
  • Use diagrams and pictures to improve communication.


Access to Medical Care for Individuals with Mobility Disabilities.  U.S. Department of Justice. 

Effective Communication.  U.S. Department of Justice.

Equal Rights Center. (2011). Ill-Prepared Health Care’s Barriers for People with Disabilities.

Lagu, T.,Hannon, N. S., Rothberg, M. B., & Wells, A. S., (2013). Access to Subspecialty Care for Patients with Mobility Impairment: A Survey. Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(6):441-446.

Content was developed by the Northwest ADA Center and is based on professional consensus of ADA experts and the ADA National Network.

University of Washington

The contents of this factsheet were developed under grants from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant numbers 90DP0095 and 90DP0086). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this factsheet do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

© Copyright 2018 ADA National Network. All Rights Reserved.
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