#AdvocacyMatters: Modernizing a Legacy

September 22, 2023 / #AdvocacyMatters

Before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there was the Rehabilitation Act… specifically section 504. This landmark act – passed in 1973 – was the first to specifically prohibit discrimination based on disability for anyone receiving federal program funding. Much has changed in the past 40 years. Despite minor updates here and there it’s long past time to fully align section 504 with contemporary legislation, modernizing this historic act for today and the future.

This summer, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to update their rules implementing section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This proposed rule change “provides robust civil rights protections for people with disabilities in federally funded health and human services programs. It advances the promise of the Rehabilitation Act and helps to ensure that people with disabilities are not subjected to discrimination in any program or activity receiving funding from HHS just because they have a disability.”

This proposed change clarifies and updates language around topics like discrimination in medical treatment, accessibility of medical equipment, web, mobile ap, and kiosk accessibility, child welfare programs and activities, community integration, and value assessment methods.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our team worked to address healthcare discrimination issues like rationing of care, vaccine access, and equity in hospital protocols. The proposed language aligns with topics that remain central to our work today, like community integration and access to services for children.

Through November 13th, HHS will be accepting public comment on this proposed rule change. You can get involved in submitting public comment both online at www.regulations.gov or by mail to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, Attention: 504 NPRM (RIN 0945-AA15), Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20201.

There will also be a Tribal consultation meeting on Friday, October 6, 2023, from 2 to 4 p.m. eastern. Registration is required – you can register to attend by clicking here.

The opportunity for disabled folk to influence and improve foundational legislation shows just how far we’ve come over the past 40 years. #AdvocacyMatters

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