Today is the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has had a significant impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities, ensuring access to services that promote inclusion in the community. As healthcare professionals it is important we understand the ADA, and our role and responsibilities in ensuring full implementation of the law.
The ADA was signed into law in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. It is a civil rights law that promotes inclusion in all areas of public life, including jobs, school, transportation, and all spaces that are open to the general public.
The intent of the law is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everybody else. It consists of five sections:
Title I - Employment
Title II - Public Services: State and Local Government
Title III - Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities
Title IV - Telecommunications
Title V - Miscellaneous Provisions
Title III discusses healthcare directly, and defines the professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment as a place of public accommodation.
Often when we think of ADA accommodations we think of ramps, elevators, and other mobility accommodations. For individuals on the autism spectrum and their families, however, accommodation needs often relate to cognitive, communication, or sensory needs. These accommodations are just as important for full and equal access as that elevator is to the individual in a wheelchair.
When we support the healthcare needs of individuals on the autism spectrum we can improve their health and their ability to attend school, maintain employment, and support themselves and their families. Improving access means decreasing health disparities and the burdens they place on this population. Additionally, when we support the healthcare needs of individuals on the autism spectrum we also support our practice or facility to uphold the law and avoid the penalties associated with failing to do so.
Please consider pledging your commitment (as either an individual or an organization) to the full implementation of the ADA. Please also become a member of the Health Professions Autism Network for mutual support in this endeavor!